Sunday, March 1, 2015

Live Music: Ladies First, as Jazz in the Gardens returns

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Maria Myrie

Keisha Patterson

There are some things that just be picked and resumed with little hitch or sense of loss. The Jazz in the Gardens series of live concerts, which had enjoyed a seemingly unassailable run at the Gardens of the Jamaica Pegasus, made a sprightly return on Sunday, after a lengthy cessation, brought on both by the change in ownership of the hotel - with its attendant physical renovations - and a change in the sponsorship climate that left the iconic event somewhat in the lurch.

It returned, with customary host Michael Anthony Cuff Snr getting things underway in the usual manner, complimenting the audience and encouraging patrons in the rapidly-filling ground to acknowledge each other.

Then it was on to the music, provided no less a stalwart group: Chris McDonald on keys (and chipping in with vocals as is his wont), Adrian Henry, aka "Jerks" on electric bass, Desi Jones on drums and Othniel Lewis leading on keyboards, having dubbed his quartet The Fryers (think "minnows" or "sprats" if you're non-Jamaican).

Of course, they were anything but lightweight musically and whipped through two instrumental selections before the evening's first vocalist (in a Ladies-themed night) took the stage. Slender and slinky in figure-hugging black (a motif it seemed for the night), Morrison hit an early high with a gender-friendly rendition of Ben E King's "I Who Have Nothing". It was a height that she would not again reach despite a workman-like rendition of Anita Baker's 'Body & Soul". Pharell's global smash "Happy" was clearly a well-intentioned choice but ended up not having the desired impact, at least not to these ears.

It was a similar situation for the following act, Yanique DaCosta, who failed to deliver any discernible measure of feeling in her renditions, which included the well-worn "At Last" and Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Leave it then to Maria Myrie to renew audience engagement with her trademark sass and  and sweetly emotive vocals. She sashayed her way through Sergio Mendes' pop-samba classic "mas Que Nada" and scatted her way (partly) through Dinah Washington's 'What A Difference (A Day Made)" before hopping genres into reggae with a medley of classic Marcia Griffiths, including the inescapable "Feel Like Jumping" and "Steppin Outa Babylon"

Patterson was most faithful to the title genre, bouncing in on "Orange-Colored Sky" (made popular by Nat King Cole and easing out - several selections later - on the Rodgers and Hart standard, "My Funny Valentine" as well as the iconic blues fever. In this she continued another theme for the night, ladies re-working songs either written or originally recorded by men. Peggy Lee's version of "Fever" is the most widely known, but the original recording is by a blues artist known as Little Willie John.

Sadly, this writer had to leave it there, with Pam Hall and show-closer Karen Smith still to come, but it was a solid resumption to a music series that is still good value in many ways, not least of which having some fidelity to the word "Jazz" in its title.

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