Jazz Artists on the Green, 2008

Jamming on the Green
Review and photographs by Mark Lyndersay. Published on March 17, 2008 by the Trinidad Guardian.

The closing jam band, featuring members of the Jyros Band with Dean Williams, Luther Francois, Samantha Gooden, Mikahil Salcedo and Sean Thomas.

Improvisation and creative flexibility provided the best moments at the sixth edition of Jazz Artists on the Greens, an evening of mostly smooth jazz and relaxed sprawling on the lush lawn around UWI’s Centre for the Creative Arts in St Augustine.
Opening the show was Michael Boothman, sitting in for the advertised, but unavoidably absent Carl Gustave of St Lucia. A last minute substitution, according to his laconic admission, he delivered some interesting moments to start the evening’s on stage performances.

Along with a pleasingly adventurous reading of Miles Davis’
All Blue, he offered his biggest hit, Heaven, complete with drawling vocals. But it was a particularly strong new piece, Dimples, written for performance on the pan but a very confident and Trini-flavoured jazz fusion composition that should encourage Boothman to keep pushing the boundaries of his songwriting.
Jamaican song stylist Samantha Gooden opened strong with some lively scatting and a startlingly rich voice that reinvented the smooth Sade hit Sweetest Taboo as a sharper, more confrontational number.

But dramatic rearrangements proved to be a stumbling block as her performance progressed, often coming across as reinterpretation for the sake of strange and offering too few opportunities for her to really show off her vocal range.
The nadir of this approach arrived in a particularly clumsy rethinking of the Gene Kelly standard
Singing in the Rain, which almost ground to a halt on a bass solo by Billy Joe Saunders for which he unprepared as a plucker or slapper of his strings.

A version of Bob Marley’s
Three Little Birds was far more successful, and this singer would do well to get herself a better arranger for these adventuresome rereadings of well-known numbers.
Luther Francois, leading the show specific SELC Quartet closed the show with capable and accomplished traditional jazz accompanied by Barbados based Ebe Gilkes on keyboard and Clarence Green on double bass. Sound, solid readings of standards like Gershwin’s My one and only, but the staid, tasteful work suffered following the remarkable performances of the Jyros Band of Cuba, a group of young upstarts who are more early Miles Davis and John Coltrane than Dexter Gordon.

The trio on bass, keyboards and saxophone took more cues from the interweaving chaos of Weather Report than the ordered politeness of much of what has come to be called jazz today.
Supported by percussionist Joel Perez, pannist Mikahil Salcedo and guitarist Dean Williams, they explored several numbers, their familiarity and comfort with each other’s capabilities visibly growing as they performed.

By the time they began a long and particularly intriguing approach to Chick Corea’s
Spain, the ad hoc band was in full flight, holding the groove and ducking in and out of each other’s solo turns.
The band was suddenly joined for its last song by Sean Thomas, who also accompanied Gooden and Francois and his enthusiastic, unscheduled turn seemed triggered by the excitement onstage.

The Jyros Band offered the most exciting performance of the evening, an engaging demonstration of skill and perceptive playing. It was the most progressive jazz of the evening and a powerful reminder that you can’t play that loosely unless you’re really tight and together as a musician.
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