12 September 2011

Jazz Jamaica

By Rachel Sloane


“Jazz Jamaica” at Snape Proms, Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Sunday 14 August.


Imagine music that mixes ska and reggae sounds into classic and modern jazz, performed by eight Jamaican musicians and one vocalist. Add a packed Snape Proms audience on their feet and dancing, and you can get some idea of the terrific buzz that  filled Snape Maltings Concert Hall by the end of the performance by “Jazz Jamaica”.


Beginning with their traditional opening number, “The Guns of Navarone”, each musician in turn, in true jazz style, took the lead, receiving ecstatic applause from the audience. Encouraged by the band leader, Gary Crosby, to get on their feet (“We play, you dance” ) with just a couple of reminders, many  did just that including the impressive number of children, teenagers and young people were in the Snape audience. 


With their distinctive Jamaican sound, the band gave their take on music as diverse as Desmond Decker’s “The Israelites” to the James Bond theme.  


To the non-jazz aficionado, good jazz players make their music sound so effortless that we can’t believe that they are improvising – surely the sound must be the result of meticulous planning and hours of rehearsal? What I loved about “Jazz Jamaica” was that the music they made was outstanding but I could actually see them, with a word or a nod, deciding who would improvise the next section: guitar, trumpet, saxophone or trombone.  Throughout, the unstoppable rhythm of the tune continued, played by the pianist, drummer, guitarist and/or double bass, ebbing and flowing as the tune took on a life of its own.    


In the second half of the concert the band was joined by guest vocalist, Myrna Hague, “the first lady of jazz from Jamaica”, slim and elegant, ivory silk trousers matching her upswept hair, with a husky deep-velvet mature voice, that complimented the younger musicians perfectly. Together they had the audience roaring their approval after she sung her hit song, “What about Me?”


The concert ended with an encore that included a drum solo so enthusiastic that some of the drum kit had to be rescued from the floor where it had landed, mid-play. A suitable end to a knock-out evening of great jazz mixed, as promised, with Jamaican rhythms and some hit tunes from the 1970’s.  

(This review also appears onhttp://www.onesuffolk.net/home/previews-and-reviews/reviews)