Jazz as sweet as sugar
It was sweet as sugar at the Plantation Garden Theatre when two jazz performances thrilled the crowds for over two and a half hours, on a night that saw standing ovations, long applause, a surprise guest spot from Edwin Yearwood, and musicians who showcased a range of abilities that were fantastic to see and hear.
On Saturday night, Sugar Isle Jazz brought standout performances.
Up first was NJ30+ led by electric bass guitarist Marius Charlemagne, Kweku Jelani on trumpet, Rashad Hinds on drums, Joseph Callender on saxophone, Jerome Waithe on guitar and André Clarke on keyboard.
The band asserted a potent musical presence, individually and collectively as no musician was left out. Each had his own time to shine, but some more so as the delightful arrangements had the sax and trumpet out front frequently.
The band travelled from the Plantation to the United States, then took a short trip to Jamaica, back to Barbados, back to Jamaica, then off to Trinidad, eventually ending back home where the heart is.
The 50-minute set started out with the jazz classic Chicken. The band took two breaths and blew right into Higher Ground/Master Blaster and Now That We’ve Found Love.
Gabby’s Emmerton had the crowd of old and very young on their feet with its operatic bass feature. Charlemagne on cello had the building reverberating. Add in Callender’s sax and Jelani’s trumpet, and it was music to the ears as they changed the tempos from fast to slow and back again.
The piano solo then caramel-coated No Woman No Cry.
It was a nice touch.
Putting their spin on the calypso set made this section the standout part of the night. Night And Day (pan), the spouge version of No Good, Jack by Gabby, and Killalay as a tuk band feature with
a solo over it. The band loved this set and their energetic and exuberant performances must have made rehearsals a blast. They finished that set with Biggie Irie’s Cyan Be Over and integrating the jazz feature Donna Lee into it made the song saccharine. Only thing missing was the costume bands.
They ended with a funk rock version of the Beatles’ Come Together and the crowd gave them a standing ovation.
Speaking to NATIONNews afterwards, Charlemagne said the rehearsals and putting together of the set was all done last week. “Our set is never the same. We put research into what the crowd would like and so on.”
After intermission, dessert was served up by the ten-member Caribbean All Star band from Trinidad, Cuba, Jamaica and Barbados, who showed how young musicians grow up to be world-class names in the music industry.
“You ready? You ready? You ready?”, asked Grammy-nominated musician Nicholas Brancker.
“We ready, yes we ready, we ready,” answered the crowd, playing along.
With pieces arranged by both Brancker on bass and Leston Paul from Trinidad on keyboard, the band’s items lasted eight to ten minutes each.
Alberto Suarez, Maurice Gordon, James Lovell, Desi Jones, Dennis Rollins, Robbie Greenidge, Alexio Barrow, Andre Daniel rounded out a fabulous dectet.
Starting off with an unfamiliar piece, Brancker told the audience it was written during the four days of rehearsals and had no name, so he christened it that night – GPS.
Paying tribute to masters in the region, next was David Rudder’s Calypso, on which the horns were sweet and the pan sweeter.
The ten-minute Bob Marley’s Is This Love was done justice by the trumpet arrangement, and each arrangement allowed each player to distinguish himself.
Using snappy basslines, rolling percussion, raw guitar fills, and nimble fingers from Paul, the cast showed off their creativity.
Brancker took over the keyboards from Paul to introduce Edwin who was not on the bill, candy-coating an already stellar evening.
He stole the spotlight with Voice In My Head, bringing the congregation to church with a hymnal version, before segueing into Pump Me Up. Greenidge’s pan solo for this was a blur of hands.
Brancker’s time in the spotlight was on a solo piece that produced some heavy twanging and plucking of the strings that ended the show at 11:02 to a sustained standing ovation and applause. His riffing was really in fine form.
The band came back out after minutes of calls for “more” to do one more song.
Last year’s Sugar Isle Jazz was a three-day affair. This year, even though it was only one night, it had just the right ingredients to satiate the appetite of jazz enthusiasts.