Gary Crosby OBE is the founder and leader of Jazz Jamaica, an orchestra who have been mixing Ska, Classical, Mento and Reggae with the improvisational nature of Jazz since 1991. The string section is provided by the Urban Soul Orchestra, founded by Stephen Hussey, who is also playing here tonight and there’s also Voicelab, a choir of over 200 people to help beef up the backing vocals.
Former Aswad singer Brinsley Forde is here to provide the main vocals on each of the songs, ably supported by three additional backing singers, and he’s greeted warmly as he launches into “Concrete Jungle”, which is also the first track on the album. With the huge number of people on stage, each song is complimented with brass and string solos that turn them into extended, uplifting arrangements. Next, it’s “Slave Driver” and then the two songs on the album that were written by Peter Tosh, “400 years” and “Stop that train”. These songs sounds epic with this kind of big band backing behind them but they augment the music never overwhelming it, a tribute to the arrangements of Jason Yarde who isn’t here tonight.
After a short interval, everyone returns for the remainder of the album. “Kinky Reggae”, “No more trouble” and “Stir it up” all sound epic, with rich arrangements that transform them into great sing-a-longs. By now, plenty of people in the packed venue are on their feet and dancing along to the infectious vibe of this great orchestra.
A good way to introduce both Jazz and Jamaican music to audiences, this “Catch a Fire” tribute was well arranged and expertly played. Gary Crosby was humorous and engaging with the audience and Brinsley Forde was perfect on vocal duties, never trying to imitate Bob Marley but merely paying tribute himself to a great musician.
A great event well executed.