From the Jamaican Art of Music that opens Thursday night showcase to the “Caribbean Queen” man Billy Ocean closing act the performances were world-class And, despite the brouhaha with superstar Diana Ross, no performer flopped.
Standout and memorable was the performance of Canadian 13 year-old sensation Nikki Yanofsky who delivered a mature 45-minutes set that left the near 20,000 crowd spellbound. Thursday night another 13 year old, Jessica Yap justified her billing on the region’s biggest jazz festival.
Spyro who? asked a lady beside, “mi neva here ‘bout dem before” in response to the performance of the internationally acclaimed Spyro Gyra , who have recorded 25 albums and sold 10 million records making them the most prolific group in jazz fusion. People who understand their music, however, know that they gave a classic presentation and their Trinidadian born drummer must rank among the best upcoming.
Based on reports, Friday night belong to Jill Scott who fused poetry, storytelling and music to give the best performance of Night 2. Chalice and Hugh Masekela were outstanding.
A.J. Brown was in his usual fine form, Marjorie Whylie was a show stealer, Yueba Buena had Anita Baker dancing stage side, Koko Taylor put the blues in Jazz & Blues and did please.
Having seen Thursday and Saturday Night presentations and having read and heard from associates who attended Friday Night show, Offbeat rates the performers based on their individual performance, their connecting with the patrons and how the media reported them, the Top 5 Performers at the Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival 2008 were;
1. Anita Baker
2. Jill Scott
3. Billy Ocean
4. Nikki Yanofsky
5. Hugh Masekela
Runner-ups: Spyra Gyro and Ryan Shaw.
Still, those occupying the privileged front of stage position would argue that Diana Ross strongly challenged Anita Baker as the best performer of the festival but with what transpired then maybe she should be sidelined from the Offbeat ratings.