As happened last year, Adam Smith Square in Woodbrook was overflowing with people last Saturday night for the second staging of the Mayor's Pan Jazz Experience.
Presented as part of celebrations in observance of the 102nd anniversary of the Port-of-Spain Corporation, the event featured performances by pan players Ray Holman, Ken "Professor" Philmore, and Len "Boogsie" Sharpe; vocalists Mavis John and Vaughnette Bigford; steel orchestras Newtown Playboyz, CAL Invaders, Massy Trinidad All Stars, and Desperadoes; and the Terry Shaw Jazz Ensemble.
Admission was free, a bargain price when you considered the combination of worthy cause and exquisite entertainment on show. Interestingly, a number of high profile figures were present, including US Ambassador John Estrada, former prime minister of Antigua/Barbuda Baldwin Spencer, Speaker of the House Bridgid Annisette-George, former Minister of Tobago Development Delmon Baker, and former Minister of Culture Joan Yuille-Williams.
Holman opened the playbill at 7 pm, showcasing some of his musically-rich compositions. He was followed by Mavis John, one of the world's best female singers, whose varied and entertaining repertoire included an inspiring rendition of Lifeline, composed by GB (Gregory Ballantyne) and vocalised by Anne Marie Inniss in the 1980s; and the late Kitchener's (Aldwyn Roberts) The Carnival is Over, a calypso that only gets more alluring as it progresses, so that when Mavis sang the final chorus, weeping would not have been an unreasonable response from those who take Carnival seriously.
Professor's contribution included a foot-stomping arrangement of the Mighty Sparrow's (Slinger Francisco) Jane, sung in 1968. This is a musically-constructed song in which intricate section parts are criss-crossing all the time, but in delivering the work Professor and the musicians of Shaw's Ensemble never got in each other's way.
With every appearance, ever-smiling and affable jazz vocalist Bigford delivers effortlessly on some of the most timeless standards and ballads. Standing out from her choices on the occasion were interpretations of Junior Byron's Crying's Easy (1985) and Can You Love Me, originally sung by Alsop "Steelo" David with music band Kalyan in 1977.
In an interview with writer Nasser Khan in this newspaper in April 2013, Bigford was asked what inspired her to do what she does. Her reply was: "I love being on stage. I think it's such a gift to be able to move people with your interpretation and expression via song. I tell people that I am always more concerned with whether someone was touched after a performance than how 'good' I sounded. I think that's what makes it special, that people are moved."
That intention was successfully accomplished on Saturday.
New kid on the block, Newtown Playboyz Steel Symphony had folks dancing joyfully to its rhythmic renditions of a slew of old-time calypsoes, opening its set with the late Richard "Nappy" Mayers' Old Time Days, and including Colin Lucas' Dollar Wine, Brother Marvin's Jahaji Bhai, Melody's Ice Man, and a medley of Baron's and other calypsonians' popular selections.
Stellar performances by the other steel orchestras on the programme kept the large audience rooted in the Square until after the midnight hour.