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The perfect blend

by Emmanuel Joseph

gospelfest2013jazzandlaughterDespite a rain-delayed start of about half hour, Friday night’s Barbados Gospelfest-produced Laughter and Jazz at Divi Southwinds Hotel in Christ Church, was worth the wait.

Once the event got under way, there were no further interruptions, as several hundred patrons filled the lower “deck” on the grassy area nearest the stage and swimming pool, and a couple dozen more took up vantage points in the restaurant, which afforded them a gazebo type view of the action below.

It was as though the Almighty had decided to make His contribution to the showcase by raining down “musical showers” for a brief spell and then bringing relief — comic or otherwise — to the anticipating crowd for the rest of the night.

Transformation came quickly, as nimbus clouds turned into cumulus, dark skies cleared, a bright full moon emerged from its hiding place, and thousands of stars twinkled — perhaps, in a jazz rhythm. By the time UK based singer Boma Diri came on stage to open the proceedings, it was evident that the venue, with its natural beauty that included majestic palm trees that hugged the green circular lawn of the seated audience, was conducive to laughter and jazz — gospel style.

It was a beautiful ambience, fit for beautiful music and fun. Whether it was coincidence or not, Boma Diri’s first song was Beautiful One, a commendation to God. The stirring rendition was a sign of things to come. The British artist — in Barbados for the first time — took a Leap of Faith which paid off in melodic and inspiring terms. She then promised to Never Let Go, a track from her debut album, she said had not yet been released in her homeland. The medium tempo gospel song requires further listening to grow on me.

After Boma Diri’s relatively quiet start, a 23 year old talented instrumentalist from St. Lucy and a student of internationally-acclaimed Barbadian saxophonist, Arturo Tappin, stepped onto the stage and turned up the heat. Romaro Greaves, who has already blown his saxophone in the company of such globally accomplished musicians as American Freddie Jackson, our own Grammy awardee, Nicolas Brancker and Tappin himself, more than justified those enviable achievements.

Greaves played with clarity, confidence and melodic expressiveness. As he transitioned from tune to tune, his skillful manipulation of his wind instrument, appeared to have mesmerized his audience, which broke out in periodic applause, whenever he blew outside of the box.

One admirable aspect of his set was when he dedicated a portion to Barbadian and international iconic gospel artist, Joseph Niles, by stamping his own version to some of Niles’ hit songs, such as This Train and Walking Up The King’s Highway.

The music was broken by a session of laughter, featuring American comic Chinitta “Chocolate” Morris. Morris started by trying to get patrons to warm to his sense of humour, an effort that proved to be somewhat of a challenge, initially.

However, after a mixture of corny jokes and others that kind of came off, her comedy improved and people began to “bawl” when she dealt admirably with issues most church-going Barbadians could identify. For example, the way black people preach and worship, as opposed to white ones, and the length of time it takes for black preachers to finish a prayer.

Barbadians Raphael Hinds and Friends gave a creditable performance, as they “cooked up a jazz pot”, using the ingredients of Raphael on keyboard, Chad Hinds on drums and Jewel Devonish on steel pan.

Canadian trumpeter Dave Brown closed the show with a bang and was in fact, the only artist who received an encore. Brown, who was in Barbados for the first time, displayed his versatility as he interspersed his performance by playing his trumpet and singing.

Pulling from his repertoire of worship songs that included I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, a track from his debut album titled Instrument of Worship, he lifted worshippers to their feet and had them dancing, clapping and singing.

I have no doubt that most patrons left Divi Southwinds Hotel last Friday night filled with laughter and jazz.

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