Sevana stands out on Jazz finale 'Butch' Stewart remembered for leadershipMonday, March 08, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
LATE chairman of the Jamaica Observer, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, was remembered on Saturday's final night of the virtual staging of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival.
A minute of silence was observed prior to the performances in honour of his vision and stewardship, as it was under his leadership as chairman of national airline Air Jamaica that the first festival, then called the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, was organised in 1996. It was a means to increase visitor arrivals and add to the entertainment and cultural offerings available on the island. It was noted that Stewart gave the festival his full support and the inaugural event was executed within 10 weeks of the initial pitch to the airline.
Stewart passed away on January 4. He was 79.
Saturday's showcase followed the trend of the previous two nights, offering a strong mix of the established and the emerging artistes. However, there were noticeable peaks and valleys and a clear separation in the acts who truly performed for and engaged their virtual audience.
The night's clear standout was Sevana.
Her set captivated the virtual audience from her very first note. The fans and new converts to the music of the girl from Savanna-la-Mar, who has been mentored by reggae artiste Protoje, is signed to MCA Records, and last year dropped her EP Be Somebody, were all excited as she delivered song after song with an impressive level of maturity.
Her playlist for the night included her singles Phone a Friend, If You Only Knew, Mango and Bit Too Shy. When she did Blessed and delved into her gospel roots, she had her audience's full attention. The track Rock and Groove would spawn a tribute to those who went before and she drew for the music of Dennis Brown, Beres Hammond and popular deejay Vybz Kartel.
Sevana's performance had the audience on such a high that one patron commented on YouTube that they were sorry for the artiste coming next. That was the fate for the lone international act on the festival, multiple Grammy award-winning artiste Jon Secada.
Despite his acclaim and a strong catalogue, Secada's performance cast a chill on the heat generated by the string of fire emojis that flowed during Sevana's set.
His voice and performance took patrons back to his previous stints on the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival stage, as he dropped his popular tracks If You Go, I'm Free, Angel and Just Another Day. He also included Georgia On My Mind, the classic which has been made popular by Ray Charles.
It was then left to Richie Stephens to raise the temperature on the virtual stage and this he did.
No stranger to the festival's stage, Richie Stephens brought his level of artistry and showmanship to his set which closed the night and the festival for this year. His set comprised his dance favourites over the years and some of the ballads he has made popular. Colour of Love, Fight Back, Maniac, Weakness for Sweetness, Born a Winner Thanks You Lord, and Live your Life were among his selections. He also shared the stage with his friend Little Lenny, who is best known for his tracks Health Body and its risqué original Gun Inna Baggy.
Prior to these performances, the night saw a number of other acts take the stage. These were the classical and jazz ensemble Caje, which performed a tribute to the late Toots Hibbert; soulful singers Zia Benjamin and Janine Jkuhl, Caribbean acts The Teddyson John Project from St Lucia, and Trinidad's Freetown Collective. Rising artiste Tesselated also brought his brand of music to the Jazz and Blues stage.
The organisers of the festival can be proud of the strong performances, crisp, clear audio, and visuals and a seamless transmission throughout the three nights of the festival. There were also strong performances and features during the duration of the live stream of which they can be proud.
The festival returned to the local entertainment calendar after a five-year hiatus. The event — which started in 1996 — has called a number of venues home, including the Cinnamon Hill Golf Course, Rose Hall Great House, James Bond Beach, and the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium.
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