School of Music 50th Anniversary Faculty Jazz Recital

Like highly skilled chefs that have mastered the kitchen, the highly experienced Faculty of the Edna Manley College School of Music whipped up savoury jazz dishes at the recently held School of Music 50th Anniversary Faculty Jazz Recital. The College’s Vera Moody Concert Hall was packed as jazz enthusiasts flocked to relish the performances by lecturers such as Maurice Gordon, Michael “Ibo” Cooper, Samuele Vivian, Peter Ashbourne, Jon Williams, Orville Hammond and June Lawson.  It was time and money well spent on a beautiful Saturday evening, as the music masters did not disappoint, demonstrating why they are highly qualified to impart knowledge at the tertiary level.

The stars were aligned and the expectancy was high as the night started with the talented Peter Ashbourne and the E-Park Band. Easily meeting the expectancy, Peter Ashbourne and his band, served up a mixture of Jazz, Caribbean folk and roots rocking reggae. The band outfitted with local heavy weights music professionals such as Desi Jones and Dean Fraser set the pace for a night of live and highly professionally delivered music. The highly talented Jon Williams masterfully delivered a tantalizing favourite, Someone to Watch Over Me, by George Gershwin on piano, which left the audience thoroughly satisfied. Punctuating his set with humorous anecdotes, the affable Michael “Ibo” Cooper and his accompanying musicians fed the audience with variations of reggae-jazz fusion, and folk dishes such as the 1940 Pantomime song, Evening Time spiced with Spanish flavour. School of Music alumnus and professional guitarist Kenroy “Shorty” Mullings had the audience glued to his segment, as he masterfully unleashed his skills, demonstrating that he is definitely one of the best guitarists coming out of the School of Music. If the audience thought they were having a good time, then they were in for a temperature adjustment.

The musical temperature climbed to a record high with a fiery percussion clash between lecturers Ouida Lewis on congo drums and Junior Baillie on drum kit. The drumming ricochet between the two percussionists sent the audience in a frenzy, as patrons waited with bated breath to see what musical artillery each percussionist would pull out in response. It was a perfectly matched segment as both displayed top notch skills that would leave percussion amateur’s brain spinning in circles. There were even more musical tricks that were pulled from Cooper’s band, as the bass player Dale Brown and percussionist Junior Bailey teased the audience with a snippet  of Sean Paul’s dancehall piece Get Busy.

School of Music Artiste in Residence, Orville Hammond, who has extensively toured the world as a professional pianist, delivered a strong, technically impressive jazz set, to the delight of classic jazz lovers. He then invited Italian lecturer and professional guitarist Samuele Vivian on stage, who had the audience spellbound with a highly impressive classical and jazz fusion rendition of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. The technically rich delivery of the piece on the modern guitar solicited a wave of applause from the audience, who watched and listened in awe.

The night further intensified with the smooth sailing, beckoning voice of lecturer (Voice) June Lawson, who caressed the ears of the audience, displaying her mastery of relaying appeasing stories through tonal colouring and variations. Her delivery of Don’t Get around Anymore by Bob Russell and Duke Ellington was well received and rewarded by thunderous applause. Lecturer and popular jazz guitarist Maurice Gordon and his band, comprising of School of Music alumni Wade Johnson (piano), Oliver Thompson (drum kit), and Adrian Henry (bass) brought the night to a close with a strong enjoyable jazz set. His commanding stage presence and technical mastery had the audience glued to their seats, hoping that the night would not end. However, like all good things, the night had to end, but not before the audience was treated to a “jam session” by Gordon and his band. The audience left with an indelible reminder that the Faculty of the School of Music is one of the many reasons why the institution is the premier tertiary music academy in the Caribbean. The 50th Anniversary would not be complete without the showcase of the illustrious School of Music Faculty.

The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts has been through several stages in its evolution. The four Schools—Drama, Music, Dance, and Visual Arts—started out at different locations in Kingston. Two of the Schools, namely the School of Art and the School of Music, are historic because of their establishment in 1951 and 1961 respectively, before the island gained its independence from Britain in 1962.

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