Sunday, 30 January 2011

BEST OF JAMAICA JAZZ & BLUES 2011: From Maroon 5’s pop-rock magic to Natalie Cole’s regal class act, top acts came out swinging

ALL THAT JAZZ: Not even the threat – and subsequent appearance – of showers could diminish the thrills or discourage the throng of concertgoers at the 2011 Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival at the Greenfield Stadium in Trelawny. After all, we were in such fine company:

In short, a mesmerizing set from a true entertainment legend. She may have dazzled with a feathery, delicate opening (the jazz standard “Fever”) before moving into other “sexy little songs” like “Hey, Summer Sun” and “Somewhere in the Hills”, but by far Cole’s most scintillating renditions of “Unforgettable,” “This Will Be” and the encore “Our Love” showed her at her most radiant. My fave headliner this year (photo above). A

Like Whitney Houston, Belle’s voice has evidently lost much of its lustre. Still, the legendary belter managed to cast a tuneful spell over the mammoth crowd that eagerly joined her on songs like “Make It Like It Was” and “If I Could,” from the Nancy Wilson songbook. Gospel (“I Hope He Understands”) and scatty, funky jazz (“Lazy Afternoon,” “Summertime”) also found its way into her wonderful set. B

The harmonious blend occasionally lacked richness, but the roughly 45-minute stint from 90s R&B trio Sisters With Voices was never less than appealing, thanks in large part to familiar tunes like “Right Here,” their most successful radio hit “Weak” and humorous bit involving a shirtless, smiling male plucked from the audience. B

You have to give Diana King her credit; it’s always something fresh and exciting from the homegirl who gave us smash hits like “Shy Guy,” “Treat Her Like A Lady” and “I Say A Little Prayer.” Prompted by those ever-impressive vocals, there was enough hot stuff from her on opening night to last for days. B+

Buoyed by her natural charm and free-spirited approach to her performance, Izibor brought to the stage all that I expected and more: an enlivening set made all the more exhilarating by joyously entertaining renditions of “Don’t Stay,” “Gracefully,” the eternally hopeful shine, and, of course, the track I came especially to hear, “If Tonight Is My Last.” Raw passion, effervescence and that soaring voice suit her amazingly well. A

Yes, the Grammy-winning pop-rock band is made up of five six blue-eyed fellas, but at Jazz (like everywhere else) their music transcended colour and culture barriers. It was a rousing reception for a stellar, pulsating performance that included “Misery,” “She Will Be Loved”, as well as pleasantly surprising jabs at Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and Bob Marley’s “Trenchtown Rock” to tide us over till the long-awaited “This Love” and the delightful set-closer “Sunday Morning.” A-

Consistently remaining in character, Riley scored another memorable concert appearance, drawing on his trademark gilded crooning, charismatic stage presence and wonderful sparring with his band and, more importantly, those he came to entertain with selections “Lion Paw,” “Start Anew,” “She’s Royal” and “Good Girl Gone Bad” and many others. B+

Serving as a deeply appreciated showcase for fast-rising homegrown talent, the Heineken stage introduced attention-worthy ten-minute stints from singers like Bryan Art (the silky-smooth “Taxi”) and Rising Stars alum Chanti-I, whose vocal dexterity elevated her treatment of Jill Scott’s “A Long Walk” and the standard “Summertime.” Susan Couch, newcomer Defranco and the Haadknock Band also impressed. B

Most iconic superstars are content to reach out to their fans at concerts simply through the music. Apparently, the men of Air Supply aim higher. The venerable duo desired such a real connection with their Jamaican audience that they made their way into the supersized crowd to get their wish for a good two minutes (as seen below). Meanwhile, to say that their roster of hits went over well with everyone would be understating it. From the commanding “Even The Nights Are Better” to the marvellous “The One That You Love,” Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock could strike no false note with the crowd. B+

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