Jamaica all jazzed up

The countdown to the star-studded Air Jamaica Jazz Fest of 2006 has begun and with just under two weeks till show time, airline seats are going fast along with festival tickets and hotels rooms, according to a press release.

As producer Walter Elmore, tells it, ‘The buzz and the vibe in the country is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this in all the years I’ve been in the business. People are trying to find hotel rooms as far away as Ocho Rios and Negril.’

Performers, which include the likes of Shaggy, Maxi Priest, Morgan Heritage, Al Green, John Legend and James Ingram, are all gearing up to thrill fans. ‘Airline seats are booked for all the performers, hotels rooms are being assigned, all the equipment is being shipped and everything is falling in place,’ Mr. Elmore said.

Opening night for the three-day festival is Thursday, January 26 at the Rose Hall Resort and Country Club in Montego Bay, Jamaica and Mr. Elmore reveals that nine Grammy nominees for 2005 will be on one stage that night, with internationally known reggae artist ‘Mr. Boombastic’ Shaggy and John Legend performing both separately and also as a duo.

It will be a historic moment and the ‘secret’ song is already being rehearsed by both artists, according to Mr. Elmore.

Also set to perform that night is reggae’s royal family, Morgan Heritage along with Chester “Lyfe” Jennings, who last year released his ‘Lyfe 268-192,’ album on Sony Records and master flutist and composer Nestor Torres.

On Friday night, January 27, Richie Stephens, who has been called one of reggae’s most versatile personalities, will perform along with the international cast of Rev. Green, Air Supply, Bo Diddley and newcomer Nicole Henry. Air Supply will be in Jamaica for the first time in their 30-plus year career and are promising fans a great show they will be able to sing along to, the release continued.

As the duo, Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock tell it, ‘We’ll be playing all the hits, not just the old but also some new things. We’re coming out with guns blazing.’

Reggae’s Maxi Priest along with KEM, Soul diva Patti LaBelle, James Ingram and the Reunion Jazz Quartet will heat things up on Saturday night, the finale, along with top calypso and reggae artists who will pay tribute to Soca icon, Byron ‘The Dragon’ Lee.

Sparrow, Arrow of ‘Hot, Hot, Hot,’ fame, the Merry Men, Marcia Griffiths, Ken Lazarus, Keith Lyn and Pluto, are just some of the regional acts who have worked with Lee over the half-a-century and who will gather to pay tribute to the ‘Father of Jamaican music,’ as he’s called by Elmore.

Sparrow says he’s ‘honoured’ to be performing at the festival and helping to pay tribute to Lee, who he’s performed alongside since the 1960s and collaborated with on several songs. As he puts it, ‘We’re going to try to see if we can lift the festival one step higher because this honour is definitely long in coming and we’re so glad it’s being handled at this particular level.’

An event pass for the three-day festival costs US$160 while individual ticket prices range from $50 for the Thursday night performance, $55 for Friday night and $60 for the final tribute night, Saturday, 28 January. Tickets and further information are available online at www.airjamaicajazzandbluesfestival.com