'Ochi' Jazz Fest hits high note

By Richard Johnson Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 20, 2013

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MYRNA Hague, organiser of the 23rd Annual Ocho Rios Jazz Festival, is happy with this year's staging.


The festival ran from June 8 -16.


An accomplished jazz vocalist, Hague said she is pleased with the event's execution as well as being able to balance the books.


"I am beginning to do the books and, right now, it looks as if we will not be in the red. It seems like we will stay on this side of black this year," she shrieked with laughter during the telephone interview.


This comes amidst the economic crunch and a decline in sponsors. Jamaica Tourist Board was the only cash sponsor. However, a number of entities donated kind.


Hague, who, along with her late husband musician extraordinaire Sonny Bradshaw conceptualised the festival in 1991, said that she was "quite pleased" in light of the changes made to this year's staging.


"The main change was with the jam sessions. I invited some of my professional colleagues and friends. We had some really great moments interacting and just jamming and it worked well," she said.She said despite the rains and the resulting low audience turnout, the Father's Day show, which capped the festival, had some memorable moments.


"One of the highlights of Sunday's event in Ocho Rios was Ska Rebirth — Sparrow Martin and his band of young musicians — they were amazing and quite a surprise. There was also Yolanda Brown on sax. Sonny [Bradshaw] brought her a few years ago and it was just great having her back and seeing her growth and development."


The festival also saw performances from Harold Davis, Dr Cathy Brown, keyboardist Alex Martin Blanken, songstress Christine Fisher, Trinidadian Darren Sheppard with his electronic steel pan, percussionist/alto saxophonist and tap dancer Idris Ackamoor.


Despite the challenges inherent in staging an event of this nature, Hague is determined to maintain what she calls the "jazz integrity" of her festival.


"It was always to be a jazz festival... the pop market has their festival, and so do lovers of reggae and dancehall music. So there must be something for those who want to hear jazz and we are going to provide that. We will also maintain the size of he festival which we coordinate, because that is what we can handle, but we are open to people across the island who wish to organise events under the banner of the festival," said Hague.


Hague is already eyeing plans for next year's events noting that there is never a shortage of act to perform on her jazz stage.


"I just got an e-mail from a band in Mexico who can't wait to make it here next year," she said.



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