Greats sets on 'Jazz' Night II

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 02, 2014    

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NIGHT two of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival saw the appearance of international acts. Rhythm & Blues acts Toni Braxton, Joe, Chrisette Michele and smooth jazz saxophonist Najee took the Trelawny Multi-purpose stage.

In front of an audience larger than Thursday's curtain-raiser, the acts all delivered credible sets.

Robed in a little black dress, her close-cropped hair tipped with blonde highlights, Michelle gave an impressive set, earning supporters among those previously unfamiliar with her work, thanks to an engaging stage personality, great material and soaring vocals.

Her set included Epiphany, Charades, Supa, I'll Be Ok and Better. On the latter, she hit goose pimple notes which she later said she had instructed her musical director to remove from the track. The audience was pleased this was not deleted.

Michelle showed her diversity with the gospel staple Source of my Life which earned rousing applause.

It was all about the ladies once Joe stepped onstage. The artiste shed his shirt and treated his audience to a special injection of Jamaican culture.

Joe paid tribute to Gregory Isaacs with his take on the singer's Night Nurse which had the audience singing in chorus.

His performance went up a notch when he sang Marley's Redemption Song as he strummed his guitar.

His string of hits flowed: No One Else Comes Close, I Believe in You, Audience of Two, All The Things Your Man Won't Do all came tumbling ahead of his finale, I Wanna Know.

Grammy Award winner Toni Braxton closed the show with an interactive set which saw her mingling with her audience.

This frustrated some patrons who would have preferred her to sing more of the tracks which have made her popular.

Braxton reeled off How Many Ways, Seven Whole Days, You Mean the World To Me and Another Sad Love Song, before taking requests. The Diane Warren-written Un-Break My Heart, Let It Flow and Where Did We Go Wrong all came from the audience.

Braxton's performance also included a track by her sister Trina, before closing with Breathe Again.

Najee put some jazz into proceedings. His sax work was up to par on popular tracks like Freddie Jackson's All I Ever Ask, Anita Baker's Sweet Love and Stevie Wonder's Knocks Me Off My Feet.

The Jamaican experience came from singjay Protoje who gave a signature performance replete with biting lyrics. Highlight of his performance came with the introduction of his mother Lorna Bennett. She accompanied him on his song JA, and showed her 'hipness' by doing the deejay mix to the song.

The night's opening acts were singer Peter Lloyd and guitarist Samuele Vivian — a lecturer at the Edna Manley College and vocalist Gabriella Reno.





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