Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Anita Baker: arguably the best act at Jazz & Blues

Anita Baker arguably gave the best performance of the three-day Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival held in the tourism capital Montego Bay over last weekend. But, it is a rarity that a first night act be declared the overall best performer where the biggest billed stars, are usually the closing acts of the festival.

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.


Anya said...

You have stated here that Jessica Yap is thirteen years old, "Thursday night another 13 year old, Jessica Yap justified her billing on the region’s biggest jazz festival." She is a good friend of mine, and I am attesting that she is in fact fourteen, and will be fifteen soon in March. Thanks for your time.

jazzofonik said...

A few points:
Diana's performance was not great. Without the churlish, ill-advised demands, it would have been merely good.
As I recall, Air Supply got the 'popular vote' with a Thursday night appearance in 2006(?)
Anita Baker was undoubtedly most well-received, but it was essentially a greatest-hits package, which, on reflection, is sadly what the Festival has become.
For sustained musicality and virtuosity, High Masakela and his All-Stars are hard to beat. Ryan Shaw served notice that he is a soul singer to look out for
Some of the best shows acutally came from the Olint Pavilion

JamaicanMusic Offbeat said...

Anya, sincere thanks for correcting Offbeat's age reference of your good friend Jessica Yapp who was extremely entertaining at Jazz & Blues.