It is unfortunate that the newly-appointed President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders, has bowled off the beginning of his tenure with a wide ball.
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Between the young and the timeless
The 16th edition of Jazz Artists on the Greens ( JAOTG) proved once again that to be successful in the business of jazz events, the genre for which such an occasion is named need not cede overly gratuitous space to other more popular musical forms.
Last Saturday, there was no better act to signify such a commitment than the opening statement by young Jeanine Ruiz’s J9 Quartet with a selection of original compositions— some of which feature on the recently-launched This is Me album, a self-described “musical experiment” by Ruiz and her charges.
With daylight still in the faces of patrons on account of a prompt start, Ruiz’s Ambitious signalled the coming of a new generation of musicians and their music. The musical metaphor was inescapable, especially when vocalists Louise Clarke, sisters Tylah and LeAndra Head and Janine Charles-Farray, all accomplished singers in their own right, entered the stage midway in the set.
The J9 Quartet comprises Ruiz on the piano, Aaron Lowchewtung on the guitar, Jemel Patrice on the bass and Azriel Bahadoor on the drums. With the pace set, the mantle was then thrown to the Adan Hagley Project, led by the accomplished pianist/composer/ arranger whose name the group carries. Again, more original music with the flair of a young musician engaging soca, R&B and old-fashioned jazz in a single sweep.
So that when the band interpreted Voice’s Cheers To Life, as early evening darkness descended, there was little doubt that the Hagley brand rendered by young and old hands would have provided a highlight to the proceedings.
Hagley’s experimentation with jazz and contemporary soca is a wilful exercise he says is aimed at bridging the gap between the “hardcore” jazz enthusiast and people more familiar with popular soca music—an act of “finding that sweet spot between that jazz and that soul and that soca.”
In this respect, not much can go wrong with Mikhail Salcedo on the pan, Tony Paul on alto sax, trombonist Joshua Pasqual, Daniel Ryan on tenor sax, Miguel Charles on the guitar, Rodney Alexander on bass, drummer Dareem Chandler and percussionist Sheena Richardson.
However, if there had to be genuine crossover moments, they were to be provided by USbased Barbadian saxophonist, Elan Trotman and his Bostonbased band Tropicality which followed, offering a musical tour of the Caribbean and Latin America with American pop, R&B, “funkalypso” and smooth jazz thrown in for good measure.
Hard to go wrong with a set launched by a reggae-flavoured smooth jazz rendition of Bill Withers’ Lovely Day. From there they moved into a set that included dance-inspiring Island Gyal, Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You, Despacito and a soca suite that brought members of the audience to a dance floor not vacated until Trotman and his band exited the stage following a fairly faithful version of Chick Corea’s perennial jazz fusion standard, Spain.
Then came the evening’s top-billed Tribute to Ralph MacDonald at the hands of Tony Paul and a team of musicians out of the UTT music stable, The JAOTG All Stars, with music professor/trombonist Aidan Chamberlain making a cameo appearance.
This segment, which came to an abrupt end when, at 10.15 pm the police advised that the license for the event had expired, tracked the late 1978 Grammy Award winner’s career as a top flight percussionist/ composer on the US and international circuits.
The suite opened with the 1976 hit Jam on the Groove from the album Sound of a Drum.
Mister Magic, also drawn from this album, was energetically delivered by Paul and the JAOTG All Stars.
The Trinidad Interlude portion of the performance focused on three T&T themed pieces—J’Ouvert Jam (found on MacDonald’s Just the Two of Us album), the pore-raising East Dry River and, Mayaro Drive.
Had the evening’s proceedings not been otherwise rich with quality musical offerings, there would have been a far more disappointed crowd walking away from an incomplete MacDonald set that included a Trinbago Love section featuring In the Name of Love, Trade Winds and Where is the Love—a pop classic composed by MacDonald and Grammy Award winning bassist William “Salty Bill” Salter.
There were, as well, sections including Into the Diaspora which included The Path and Little Black Samba and a Calypso & Carnival finale featuring Just the Two of Us and Don’t Stop the Carnival.
JAOTG 2018 proved its worth in golden moments from young Ruiz and Hagley to Trotman’s eclectic selections to the timeless contributions of musical genius, Ralph MacDonald.
Jazz in the Islands, edited by entertainment writer/music aficionado Nigel A Campbell also lingers as a well-produced, durable literary memento from an evening well spent. Who from among us isn’t awaiting JAOTG 17 in 2019?
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