December 2007

Jamaica to Toronto
Jamaica to Toronto
December 13, 2007 The Mod Club Theatre Toronto
Report by Jeremy Ledbetter with photos by Roger Humbert
A scaled-down version of this summer’s wildly successful Harbourfront Centre jam, the Jamaica to Toronto show at the Mod Club once again showcased music from the compilation CD of the same name. The smaller, more intimate concert featured two Jamaican-Canadian artists singing a mix of funk, soul, and early reggae.

Jamaica to Toronto 1967–1974 from Light in the Attic relives a Jamaican musical migration of sorts that came this way in the late sixties, as some of the brightest stars of Kingston’s music scene moved north to Toronto. The resulting album is a compilation of Jamaican recordings made and released here in Canada.

The music comes from a time when various North American influences, travelling on the airwaves across the Caribbean Sea, were being adopted by Jamaican artists. American rhythm and blues and the music of Motown were both emulated and incorporated into the rise of rocksteady and eventually reggae.

The Mighty Pope and Jay Douglas were on hand to offer up examples of this stage of Jamaica’s musical evolution. Both singers’ repertoires also included generous helpings of standards like “Can’t Turn You Loose” and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”.

The crowd that eventually filled the Mod Club was surprisingly young. In fact, the vast majority of this audience couldn’t have been born yet in this music’s heyday — an encouraging testament to the timelessness of the music.

Prominent at all times was the competent band made up of some of Canada’s finest reggae players, including drummer Everton “Pablo” Paul, bassist Brian Huntley, saxophonist Marcus Ali, and the inimitable Dave West with his bizarre (but very inventive) two-sided guitar (but how does it spin with a strap on it?).

Leading the band on keyboards was Canadian reggae journeyman Jason Wilson. Jason did an admirable job of holding things together throughout the show, conducting his band and throwing in sporadic bursts of powerful keyboard solo.

The Mighty Pope was first on the stage to deliver a set of rhythm and blues chosen to fit his rough and powerful voice. Pope definitely had his moments, but never completely won over the young crowd, even when he substituted “Ontario” for “Frisco Bay” in the Otis Redding classic “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”.

Pope and Jason Wilson

Marcus Ali and Jay Douglas
In contrast, Jay Douglas had them in his pocket from before he even walked onto the stage — singing the first verse of his opening number from offstage and wowing everyone instantly with his downright astonishing voice. Jay Douglas is one of Toronto’s most idiosyncratic performers, and in this writer’s opinion one of the most fun to watch.

Douglas also had the advantage of a tighter, more confident musical backing, as he was performing with what is basically his regular band. The band really came into their own in Douglas’ set, turning the intensity up a notch and making some extraordinary contributions — such as Marcus Ali’s shrieking altissimo solo on “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”.

The gently heartfelt “I Wish It Would Rain” was a highlight of the night, primarily a duet between Douglas and the keyboards but also featuring an impressive turn on lead vocals by drummer Everton Paul.

Douglas did eventually resort to a certain amount of schtick, but the audience didn’t seem to mind as they even sang along with him to the chorus of “Shout”.

By the end of Douglas’ set the room was buzzing, and this would have been a perfect point to end the show and “leave ‘em wanting more”. But Pope then joined Douglas onstage for the closing number, an inexplicably fast rendition of Bob Marley’s “One Love”. It was unfortunate that the show could not have ended on a more impressive note.

Jay Douglas
Nevertheless, the second installment of the Jamaica to Toronto series was a success, packing the venue and delivering a solid performance from an all-star band.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Jeremy Ledbetter
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report
Jeremy Ledbetter is a pianist and leader of CaneFire. A band that combines Trinidadian calypso with Latin rhythms, jazz, and blues. www.canefire.ca

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