Dr Myrna Hague-Bradshaw, organiser of the Jamaica Ocho Rios International Jazz Festival and Franklyn D Resort (FDR) in Runaway Bay, St Ann, may have discovered a partnership – sweet jazz music and appetising cuisine. That was the order of the day as the festival, now in its 29th year, got off to a successful start at the family resort on Sunday.
Long before the 1 p.m. start, patrons flowed into the Honeycomb Shore Restaurant to feast on succulent offerings that spanned Jamaican, Italian, Danish, French and Indian cuisine.
And when MC Sashae Evans-Cunningham announced the first act on stage, the FDR Aggregation, it meant feasting on different fare.
With Gerry ‘King Zappo’ Hunter on guitar, Enrico Nembhard on bass, Yanik Williams on drums, and Odean Anderson on keyboard, the band glided through numbers such as What a Wonderful World and Thinking Out Loud. But then came the most pleasant surprise of the day. She was not advertised, but Chetenge, who Jamaicans have come to know through her 1999 winning festival song Born Inna JA, and the track Over 50 and Loving It from her 2006 album Borders, strode on to the stage and stole the show.
Exhibiting excellent vocal qualities and a repertoire that included tracks from greats such as Aretha Franklyn, Nancy Wilson, Peggy Lee, Doris Day and Frank Sinatra, Chetenge won over the crowd in a performance spanning two segments.
Florida-based Alexandria Darcy, granddaughter of the late Sonny Bradshaw who founded the festival, got her feet wet in Jamaica as a solo performer. Playing the guitar and singing to her own pre-recorded tracks, she showed environmental awareness with her track Mother Earth, one of five she performed.
Formed earlier this year, the all-female band Indigo, featuring pianist extraordinaire Marjorie Whylie, accompanied by Avery Crooks on trombone and Justine Jones on clarinet, showed class during their 35-minute stint before giving way to the closing act, Freddy Loco and his Gordos Ska Band. Before that, Whylie accompanied Hague on a couple tracks, much to the satisfaction of patrons.
Borrowing guitarist King Zappo from the FDR Aggregation, as their own musician was yet to arrive, and introducing American trumpeter Russell Gunn, Freddy led his band through an energetic performance, interspersing his trumpet playing with singing and dancing, showing real ska moves.
He paid tribute to one of his heroes, Muhammad Ali, with Nasty Bang Bang from the Round 4 album before rolling into Freedom Sounds, Real Rock and several other Jamaican classics. The band forced several patrons to get up and dance.
Loco was happy with the performance of the stand-in guitarist.
“Music is a universal language. We didn’t know each other, we grew up in a completely different place, but on stage we were brothers, thanks to the music and especially the ska music,” he said.
Hague was pleased with the event. She said: “It was wonderful, it was wonderful to see so many people, and I looked around at the faces and everybody was having a wonderful time, and, for me, that’s the best part. People came and they had a good time, the atmosphere was great and the music was great, it’s all worth it.” Sales manager at FDR, Trishawana Davidson, said “it was an awesome event”.