Edwin Yearwood (centre) performing No Christmas Without You which featured Nicholas Brancker (left) and Swiss jazz harmonica player Gregoire Maret (right). (Picture by Reco Moore.)
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If you missed Yello Christmas Jazz at Ilaro Court on Sunday night, then you missed one of the best shows for the season.
Just as they did last year, Nicholas Brancker and his band of merry musicians – the majority of them Barbadians – put down a marvellous showcase of Christmas instrumentals which left the hundreds of patrons feeling “so excellent” by the time they wrapped up at 10:52 p.m.
With the witty and playful Brancker on guitar, Andre Daniel and Darien Bailey on keyboard, Jomo Slusher, trombone, Kevin Lynch trumpet, Romaro Greaves saxophone, Andre Forde steel pan and percussion, Melvin Alick drums, and Xavier Jhon-Clare on guitar plus the American jazz musicians – saxophonist Eric Darius, trumpeter Pharez Whitted, guitarist Dave Gilmore, percussionist Bashiri Johnson and Swiss American Gregoire Maret on harmonica – they served delectable, full-sized meals of seasonal favourites that satisfied musical appetites.
They thrilled with Angels We Have Heard on High, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, O Holy Night, Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, Deck the Halls, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, The First Noel, and Little Drummer Boy.
Add the “incomparable” singer Kimberly Nichole and the versatile Edwin Yearwood to the mix and you had a winning recipe for an awesome night.
Nichole, who appeared in season eight (2015) of the American show The Voice, delighted with Away In A Manger and The Christmas Song, which will never sound the same to this writer. She was fantastic, breathing new life into those age-old favourites.
Yearwood’s entry to the stage was preceded by screams and cheers and he did not disappoint. After performing his No Christmas Without You superbly, some people in the audience called on him to sing his popular 2017 Crop Over song Tax-He. Brancker said it was not a night for wuk ups and he sang Richard Stoute’s Rocksteady Christmas Party, which many people sang along to. He was really good but “too short”, lamented some patrons.
A special rendition of Silent Night was one of the standouts of the show. Featuring Greaves, Whitted, Gilmore and Maret, it was a fantastic arrangement that was anything but silent as it highlighted the musicianship of the band. Little Drummer Boy was another treat with Darius, Whitted and Alick as was Deck The Halls with Gilmore, Bailey, Darius and The First Noel, featuring a soulful Maret. Some patrons had a new appreciation for the instrument and noted that it was “good blowing”.
The musicality throughout the night was heady and when they played a mash-up of Crazy Baldhead and We Three Kings with a reggae beat followed by a soca mash up of Marzville’s Give It To Ya, Jingle Bells and Burning Flames Worky Workey, people were moving in their seats, evidence that Brancker’s experiments were a winning formula.
Brancker’s solo performance on keyboard (the other musicians left the stage) of God and God Alone was riveting and spiritual, evoking feelings that reminded all that Jesus was the real reason for the season.
That was followed by an uptempo Hark! The Herald Angels Sing which segued nicely into a sweet Bajan set that got people out of their seats and dancing. They played Muh Gallon O Rum, Wuh Yah Gotta Gimme Fuh Christmas and Maizie to bring the curtain down on the 15th year of Christmas Jazz.
One of the noteworthy points of the show was that all the musicians were featured, with some having solos, which allowed the patrons to soak in their talents. The audience in turn showed their appreciation liberally, with applause, screams and cheers.
Producer Dereck Walcott, the sponsors and the “three generations of musicians” led by Brancker collectively gave the audience a huge Christmas gift, one they will surely remember in 2018. (GBM)