Written by Dat Guy NJ
Photos by Anil Batra
Talk about pressure, my first big writing assignment and I land coverage of Reggae Jazz Festival held at the New Jersey Performance Art Center (NJPAC) covering none other than the great Reggae legend Beres Hammond, one of my all time favorite artists, paired together with world renowned Reggae-Jazz pianist Monty Alexander. The Festival was held in two parts with the final leg on August 1st in Brooklyn NY at newly refurbished state of the art Kings Theatre and rumor has it that the show is all but sold out. Here in NJ the Festival was very well attended with a multicultural swarm of patrons dressed casually nice in cool summer attire. The concert was produced by Jammins Entertainment, one of the biggest names in Reggae concert productions in the NYC area with a stellar 28-year track record of hosting great concerts.
The beautiful Friday evening in Newark at the NJPAC started with music legend Monty Alexander who has performed professionally for over five decades and has over by 70 incredible albums to his credit. The Jamaican born Jazz and Reggae wizard flowed between Jazz and Reggae infusions as effortlessly as breathing. His set was powerful combining the sophistication of American Jazz with hard core Jamaican Reggae. The audience (many of whom were still entering the theatre as the concert began) hurried to their seats, immediately delighted in Alexander’s presentation and garnering him lots of chilling applause; they appeared enchanted as every note flowed from the piano filling the concert hall, and you could feel the intensity of Monty playing with a effort that came from his very soul. A number of times the music was so moving that those present sang to the familiar tunes or just stood up and danced in place. Monty really warmed up the attendees getting us started with a great vibe that made us anticipate the rest of the evenings entertainment.
The concert next moved to Beres Hammond who sang music from his significant repertoire including “No I Can’t” and then “Can’t Stop A Man” both receiving wild applause. However by the time he sang “Come Back Home” the audience became, as they say, “fully tun-up” with just about every single person on their feet and no visible figures locked down in their chair like statues. Once again, Beres had quickly and easily taken control of a concert and our emotions like few other Reggae singers can do. He finished his set with his world famous song “Rockaway” and as grand finale selections go, in my opinion that was truly the best song of the entire concert. Beres treated us to an amazing experience but before leaving, requested Monty join him on stage signaling the near end of an almost two-hour long show and what was to come next, a final rousing impromptu set.
With the vast majority of attendees being women and the rows of smiling faces evidenced throughout the entire evening, as the “Single in the City” reporter I feel obliged to inform all the single men who didn't rush right out and buy tickets when they went on sale that you missed a great opportunity to hear exceptional music and schmooze with the ladies who appeared to be in a great romantic mood the result of music masters Monty and Beres! While Monty gave us splendid piano music enough to absorb the endless magnitude of his brilliance in all its fullness, Beres penetrated the heart with lyrics based on his Reggae classics that fans easily identify with and appreciate. Bringing them together as two artists who individually project a perfect balance between passion and experience was a great pleasure. The Reggae and Jazz Festival 2015 artists successfully brought together high powered talents with audience pleasing showmanship that distinguishes each man in their own right. Monty Alexander and Beres Hammond shared their love of the music with us and it was a blessing for everyone present and I must add, a job
incredibly well done.
Dat Guy NJ is the Director of Dancehall and Reggae Alliance on the Meetup.com network and the New Jersey Field Reporter for the Live Reggae NYC “Single in the City” column.
Anil Batra is the CEO of BobbyShakesNY.com and photographer specializing in concert productions. He is a contributing photographer for Live Reggae NYC and ReggaeReflection.com *All images are copywritten.