Seretse Small has a face that you cannot forget once you have seen it – rather chubby, with strong brows and large brown eyes. He also has an infectious chuckle, especially when talking about his favorite things.
The Jamaican musician introduced us to some of these at Bookophilia this evening – and his favorites were, essentially, creative people. He began with his mother, Jean Small – educator, linguist, actress, writer, storyteller. Seretse paid an unsentimental tribute to Jean, who was sitting in the front row, speaking of the “international awareness” he grew up with. Seretse studied at the Jamaica School of Music in Kingston and Berklee College in Boston, USA. His musical heroes include, therefore, Bob Marley (almost a cliché, but you cannot ignore the richness of his songs, said Seretse); and Quincy Jones. Seretse has that jazz feel and inserted a refreshing burst of scat into one of the songs. But he also spoke passionately at one point about the comfort and sense of nurturing he feels at home on his island, Jamaica.
Now, what were the components of this evening of pre-Mother’s Day favorites? Firstly, Seretse has teamed up with two other amazing musicians – Wayne Armond and Steve Golding, to form Jakoostik. (Go and buy their CD – it was all recorded in one take, just like that, and is available at Bookophilia). The three put together create astonishingly soulful, delicately structured harmonies through their versions of well-known songs. Beres Hammond‘s “Putting Up Resistance,” slowed down and sung by Armond, takes on an added soulfulness. Golding, who has played with Peter Tosh, Chalice and others, began softly singing a Tosh song – one of quiet resilience, “Pick Myself Up,” which the other two continued. A wisp of sweet nostalgia caught me – and again, as they sang the Heptones classic “Book of Rules” - a simple tune with extraordinary lyrics, sung with passion by Armond (who is, by the way, a wonderful guitarist in his own right). Whatever your Book of Rules is, it is the guiding light you live by.
Words and music go together – and following these powerful songs, Seretse introduced a friend. Jean Lowrie-Chin read from her beautiful little book of poems and writings, “Souldance.” Jean says this book encapsulates a philosophy – the belief that each one of us has many facets – like a shining cut diamond. We are all so rich, aren’t we.
Bringing three poems, Jean focused on the family. She described the joy of her Chinese Jamaican husband dancing “to the riddim of Jah” (smilingly dedicating this poem to Steve Golding). She also read “Pick-up Time” - about the simple pleasure of going to pick up your children from school in the middle of a busy working day. The last lines made many of the working mothers in the audience smile…“Freeze the moment/Stop the clock…I live for pick-up time.” She ended by walking along the road built by her mother, firm and strong and “stadium-lit with love.”
Di Blueprint Band, comprising former students of the Jamaica School of Music, is the winner of the 2012 Global Battle of the Bands (that’s 3,000 bands from around the world, by the way). Three members of the band played for us – just keyboard and voice. Alex Gallimore has a strong, flexible voice with beautiful phrasing. He sang about love – and nothing wrong with that either. Their last song, “Back to Life,” was about vision, determination and “regaining what we have lost,” as Alex put it. I think he has a fine voice for rock music; Wayne Armond thought he had a great reggae voice. Well, both perhaps?
They say love makes the world go round. My grandmother always used to tell me that, and as a small child I used to wonder how exactly that worked. I think I’ve got it, now. Music and poetry certainly helps one towards that belief.
P.S. It’s not too late. “Souldance: Poems and Writings” by Jean Lowrie-Chin would make a beautiful Mother’s Day gift. Or a birthday present, or just a gift for someone you care about. It will enrich their lives, and yours. And pick up Jakoostik’s CD while you’re at it. What a package of sweetness that would be!
President Obama Belts Out The Blues With B.B. King, Jagger And Buddy Guy (VIDEO) | Roland Martin Reports
After that all-too-short snippet from Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” recently, President Obama has now moved on, rather tentatively, from soul to the blues. Here he is with BB singing “Sweet Home Chicago.” This man has class, style… Looking like a winner to me! PS THIS BRINGS ME ON TO A SHAMELESS PLUG FOR THE U.S. EMBASSY’S FREE BLACK HISTORY MONTH CONCERT “BLUES ON THE GREEN” – KINGSTONIANS, PLEASE TURN OUT IN YOUR NUMBERS! EMANCIPATION PARK, FRIDAY FEBRUARY 24, 6 – 8 PM. BRING A CANNED FOOD ITEM
A perfect feeling when time just slips away… There are even longer and more intense versions of this iconic song by Mr. Young. This is the sweet, sexy version. Long live Neil!
- Lots of Talk, Little Action in ‘Neil Young’s Music Box: Here We Are In the Years’ (Review) (popmatters.com)
- no Buffalo Springfield tour till 2012, but 3 Crosby, Stills & Nash shows in August (brooklynvegan.com)
- Bonnaroo: Day 3 (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Farm Aid 2011 (stillisstillmoving.com)
The Petchary wrote about the “Trombone Shorty party.” Young Adams (TS) says, “Jazz musicians can be close-minded…And I don’t want to be one of those musicians that keep recycling things that have been done already, because then I wouldn’t be able to grow.” Yes, jazz/music/culture is a growing, living thing, and so it should be. Hurrah for Mr. Shorty!
The evening ended on a quieter note, with the subtle, delicate jazz style of the Gerald Clayton Trio in a small, dark nightclub venue. The spotlight shone on the dreads of Mr. Clayton, tied in a tufted ponytail. He played in a gentle, hesitant style. The smiling Joe Sanders, also dreadlocked, leaned over the bass as he played. Lovely.
Day Three of Monterey Jazz…And did we save the best for last? We got off to a good start, watching Angelique Kidjo at the main arena, on the simulcast screen. With her short blonde hair, wearing a simple bright shirt and white pants, Ms. Kidjo through her song and words expressed her simple philosophy of love and unity. She was also quite determined to bring the somewhat staid arena crowd to its feet. Mixing rock/pop songs with African beats, she proved irresistible, swaying, prancing and swinging her hips. Soon, she was moving through the crowd, dancing one on one with any willing partner – an elderly white Californian in a Hawaiian shirt and straw hat, old hippies, shy young men (her strong spirit made some people feel extra shy). Then at least twenty audience members joined her on stage for some serious dancing. An African American girl in a bright yellow shirt kicked up her heels, arms and legs flying. An uninhibited woman undulated to the beat, the edge of her blouse constantly slipping to reveal her capacious bosom. A young boy stood in the front, staring at the audience and cautiously bending his knees in time to the music.
We all laughed.
Then Mr. Petchary suggested we line up for Dr. Lonnie Smith, who he promised would bring the house down. So he did – and built it up back again, with the audience’s help. Dr. Smith stepped on stage, in his black turban and robes, bowed and sat down at his battered Hammond B3 organ. With a warm smile and a roll of his large, expressive eyes, he had us in the palm of his hand – no, rather cupped in both hands. He started quietly, in a whispered conversation between the organ and himself. Then with a triumphant roll he began his delicious set, which trilled from beginning to end like a bird that cannot stop singing. Glorious stuff.
His guitarist, Jonathan Kreisberg, was quite sensational (we did hear some quite brilliant guitarists over the weekend), eyes squeezed shut during his solos, holding his guitar tight and close to his body, as if afraid it might jump off the stage (as well it might). Meanwhile, Dr. Smith beamed at us all over the top of the Hammond, and at times raised one hand in a theatrical flourish.
Dr. Smith developed his style in the 1960s and 1970s, playing with the likes of Ron Carter, George Benson and Billy Cobham. But one had no sense of age – just his powerful, shining humor and spirit. Check out his new album, “Spiral.”
Thank you, Dr. Lonnie!
We felt lazy, and stayed where we were in our great front row seats for the next act. What a good decision that was…We got to see the tall, handsome, slightly intellectual sax player Javon Jackson and his band. In intervals between playing, Jackson looked deeply focused, even slightly anxious – but after a tremendous solo he would break out into a broad, happy smile. From Berklee, Jackson went on to the Jazz Messengers, Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones and others.
Meanwhile, veteran keyboard player and blues/soul singer Les McCann (now aged 75) had suffered a debilitating stroke. Javon urged him to return to his music, and the two had the most remarkable rapport on stage, with immeasurable kindness flowing between them. McCann was shaky on his feet and had to be helped on stage, wearing a hat and scarf against the chill, but soon removed these and settled behind the keyboard with a contented smile. Jackson’s band, meanwhile, really “rocked.” The excellent guitarist (David Gilmore, just a slight difference in spelling from the Pink Floyd guitarist!) and Greg Jones (electric bass) and McClenty Hunter (drums) played with sympathy and good humor. McCann’s sweet vocals crept in, and the numbers were so beautifully crafted – whether slow and thoughtful or bright and busy – that the audience became more fervently appreciative after each one.
Then, the icing on the cake – the return of Lonnie Smith, and a wonderful jam session that fused the love and emotions between the old and young players.
We were on our feet again.
- Jazz Listings (nytimes.com)
- More Quickie Jazz Reviews: A Few New, and a Few That Slipped Through (geardiary.com)