*Los Angeles – The 26th Annual Jazz Reggae Festival was held on the Intramural Field of the spacious campus of UCLA,Memorial Day Weekend.Jam Day,May 27 and Reggae Day, May 28, 2012.
The Reggae Festival is the largest student-run festival in the country.The students continue to raise the bar by providing a stellar musical line-up,an art section which featured live art exhibitions,head-to-head-art battles,and innovative young artists’ inspiring work by Chocolate David, Neneki “Nick” McGee, Allison Torneros, Robert Yancy and Max Neutra.
Jazz Reggae Festival is an exciting,engaging and energetic and a perfect way to kick off to Summer season.Thousands return each year to Jazz Reggae Festival,which has become one of Los Angeles’ most celebrated events.
The festival organizers continues to raise the bar each year.They out did themselves this year by including the winner of the inaugural Battle of the Bands Competition.Vocalist India Carney won the competition,and had the pleasure of opening the festival on Jam Day.The first year student and her band performed “Heartbroken” and a medley of tunes by Lauryn Hill “Black Diamonds and Pearls,” and “Killing Me Softly with his Song.”I’m looking forward to an illustrious career for India Carney.
Popular duo Sunnymoon featured some very interesting instrumentation to create and perform some interesting and unforgettable sounds to enchant the crowd.
Selah Sue a popular singer/songwriter and guitarist from Belgium was next to grace the stage. Selah showcased her unique vocal styling on a set of original tunes of funk,soul and reggae.She stated “I’m so crazy excited about being in the United States for the first time.” Her set featured the tunes “Raggamuffin,” “Explanation,” “Break,” and “Fyah, Fyah.” Let’s hope that her stardom find her returning to the states for another tour in the future.
Thundercat took to the stage like a bolt of lightning,roaring with his unique blend of of hip-hop and jazz.A captivated group stood near the stage to take note of his bass techniques.I’m reminded of early works by Stanley Clark and Jaco Pastorius in his playing. Thundercat’s given name is Stephen Bruner. His father is acclaimed drummer Ronald Bruner Sr., and his older brother is Ronald Bruner Jr., who played drums on this gig.
The highlights of my afternoon featured the next two artists to take the stage.Gary Clark Jr., is living up to and beyond all of the hype that he is generating while touring in support of his latest CD Bright Lights.He rocked Jam Day with an explosive set of original blues tunes.The crowd were on their feet throughout his set and witnessed as this fiery guitarist blew out several amps.
The second highlight of my day was the set by music legend Booker T.Jones.I found myself groovin’ and bopping my head to their soulful sounds on “Harlem Heights,” “Born Under a Bad Sign,” and “Green Onion.” Ahmir Khalib Thompson (aka-?uestlove)was featured on drums during his encore.
The Roots a band known for their powerful contemporary vision of hip-hop and soul closed out Jam Day with another remarkable set.
Monday,festival attendees and I got into a different groove on the final day.We were again thoroughly entertained all day with various styles of Reggae:roots reggae, soca and dancehall.
The day featured the innovative sounds of Cris Cab from Miami and Collie Buddz from the isle of Bermuda.Cris Cab kicked off the program with tunes from his popular mixtape Echo that features “You Be Better off Running,” “Rihanna’s Guns,” “Not Faster Than my Bullets,” and “Angels and Demons.” The momentum continued with a set by Collie Buddz that featured stand out tunes “Let Me Know,” “I Feel So Good,” “Come Around,” “Gimme Love,” and “Blind To You.” Back up band New Kingston opened his set with “No Friends.”
Our island hopping took us to Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.We got a dose of Socacise during the sets propelled by Kes The Band and Alison Hinds (aka-The Soca Queen).Both artists performed a set of high energy,potent sounds of soca.Both artists featured some visually appealing,sensuous dancers. Kes The Band partial set list featured the tunes “Stress Away,” “Tuesday on the Rocks,” “Where Ya From?” and “Wotless.” His three beautiful dancers were Julia Cato, Naila Edghill and Candice Howong. Our workout continued with Alison Hinds the Soca Queen,who kept us moving and groovin’ on “Faluma,” “Togetherness,” “Roll it Gal,” and “Brace and Wine.”
Old School roots reggae took center stage during the unforgettable, crowd pleasing sets provided by music legend Don Carlos and Tarrus Riley both hailing from Jamaica.Don Carlos came on stage sporting a natty suit and demonstrating some natty dance moves.Tarrus Riley continues to solidify his status in the roots reggae genre of music.
Grammy award winning artist Shaggy,from Jamaica closed out the 26th Annual Jazz Reggae Festival with the pulsatting sounds of dancehall music that had the crowd bouncing with excitment while exiting UCLA’s Intramural Field.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer,music reviewer and photographer.Contact him via: [email protected].