The second night of the recently concluded Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival at Trelawny Stadium, Jamaica, was by far the best night by way of performances.
Mary J. Blige, the diva from the Bronx and Yonkers, and Michael Bolton, the soulful balladeer from Connecticut, were superb and had the large audience singing along and thoroughly entertained.
The night was also enriched by a stirring performance by the Barbadian-born jazz-reggae-calypso saxophonist Arturo Tappin, who excited the crowd with his entertaining delivery.
A reggae flavor was added to the second-night lineup with entertaining performances from reigning reggae-folk singer Etana, as well as newcomer Raging Fyah.
The three-day festival opened on Thursday, featuring several reggae acts, most giving fine performances. Seasoned veterans Ken Boothe and Leroy Sibbles showed how they have sustained careers over 40 years. Fab 5, Eric Donaldson, Admiral Bailey, Ernie Smith, Pluto Shervington, Rootz Underground (relatively new players in the Jamaican music scene, with great promise), old favorites Chaka Demus and Pliers, Nadine Sutherland, Lovindeer and Cocoa Tea also entertained admirably.
The night, however, saw outstanding performances from the very soulful group Lust and the reggae ambassadors Third World, who are celebrating 40 years of entertaining worldwide.
Saturday, the final night, drew the largest crowd, with a much-expected set from Dionne Warwick, one of the greatest soul singers of all times. Monica and K.C. and the Sunshine Band also performed. At times, disaster seemed to hover over the concert, but a sterling presentation by John Legend accompanied only by his piano saved the day.
For whatever reasons, Legend was not accompanied by a band, and this caused many of his beautifully written songs to sound alike. His inclusion of one song each from reggae artists Gramps Morgan and Taurus Riley added more excitement to his set.
Grand diva Warwick, though she looked extremely beautiful considering her 71 years of age, seemed to be in cruise mode and lacked the energy required to entertain a crowd of the size that was present, and in an open-air stadium setting. Only the respect and love for her and the many great hits she has put out over a career that spans five decades saved the night for her, and the many fans who came to be entertained, no matter what, sung along with their favorites.
K.C. and the Sunshine Band, the disco sensations of the 1970s and ’80s, out of Miami, several times asked the question that many in the audience also wanted answered: “What the hell happened?” The band sounded crisp and well-rehearsed, but K.C.’s performance was way below par, even tired.
There were also many fine performances from up-and-coming reggae acts on the second stage, and of particular interest was the brilliant performance by Ska Rebirth, a band comprising young musicians from the Alpha Boys School, playing the great ska songs originated by the original Skatalites band, the fathers of ska music. The band was directed by the veteran musician, drummer and music director Winston “Sparrow” Martin. It signaled a very bright future for Jamaican music.