Naniki is like a slice of paradise stuck away in beautiful St Joseph – an idyllic setting with lush flora, verdant rolling hills, soothing breeze, and the occasional kiss of light showers. Add music to that and last Saturday’s opening of the two-day Naniki Music Festival was one delightful experience.
Canada-based Grenadian pianist Eddie Bullen and his band that comprised his son Quincy Bullen on guitar, Ottis Williams on drums and Andy Stewart on bass got the afternoon started with an easy-listening, smooth piece entitled Spice Island that has featured on Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts. Keeping with the West Indian texture of the music he launched into a very groovy rendition of Mango Tree that would have made originator Lord Kitchener smile with approval at the band’s touches.
Bullen’s rendition of Seduce Me was just that, with soft tones, a slow and deliberate groove that created a feeling of longing, an encapsulation of sound, setting, mood and then enhanced by son Quincy taking temporary prominence on his guitar. The band eventually ended their set with a tribute to Bullen’s adopted city Toronto with a medium-tempo selection appropriately entitled 416 that gave off quite a cosmopolitan flavour.
Since Billie Holliday introduced God Bless The Child to the world back in the 1940s, the song has been covered by several jazz artistes and some outside that genre. On Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd that appreciated the talent that she is, Marissa Lindsay gave an excellent interpretation of the song. She is one of the finest vocalists in the island and though her time on stage might have been short, selections such as the original What You Going To Do served to enhance her reputation.
American star of Broadway, television, the silver screen and the music stage, Melba Moore, did not disappoint. She arrived on stage about 3.45 p.m. and departed about 4.35p.m. Yet it seemed she was on stage for too brief a period – such was her entertainment value. The 72-year-old icon who has been recording since 1967 performed a number of her recognizable hits such as Love Coming At You and Lean On Me. But her stand-out moment was her delivery of Just A Little Bit More,the 1986 Number 1 R&B mega hit which she recorded with Freddie Jackson.
With the excellent quality of music that preceded the final act it would be unkind to state that with formalities out of the way, it was time for the showstoppers. But, formalities out of the way it was time for the Splash Band with Geoffrey Biggie irie Cordle upfront and some of the best musicians on the planet including trumpeter Kweku Jelani, percussionist David Morgan and saxophonist Arturo Tappin, in tow.
Theirs was a pulsating reggae explosion that had fans in front the stage and in the Naniki Restaurant rocking the late evening away. Cordle, blessed with a voice to envy, treated fans to a selection of favourite hits from the albums of Third World, Barrington Levy and Bob Marley, inclusive of 96 Degrees In The Shade, Try Jah Love, Coming In From The Cold, Rat Race, Broader Than Broadway, Too Experience, Dancehall Rock, and several others.
The undoubted stars of the evening then appropriately ended proceedings with their hit number Get Behind The Truck.
Then, almost on cue to bless the occasion, the rains came.