THERE was a further manifestation of the constant and fruitful activities of the +233 Jazz Bar and Grill in favor of jazz in this country when its Blues & Jazz Festival 2022 took place from February 3 to February 5.
From the moment the GH Jazz Collective took the stage as the opening act, until the crisp, clear high tones of Andy Narrel’s steelpans capped off the festival, it was clear that everyone enjoyed a program designed imaginatively and perfectly executed.
With trumpeter/flugelist Nicholas Genest from France as guest, the GH Jazz Collective were in high spirits from the start of their 57-minute set.
They had obviously experienced the game in various other settings before coming together. However, they form a coherent unit even if the rhythmic density of each player always manifests itself.
Bernard Ayisa of Le Collectif on tenor saxophone is an extremely confident player who has worked the full range of notes on his horn.
When he approached ballads, his technique ranged from unmuffled whispers to comforting, non-shocking outbursts.
Drummer Frank Kissi played throughout with a high combination of speed and precision. He unleashed great solos during the festival. Percussionist Nii ‘Star’ Amoo was appreciated by many at the festival.
He hammered the most energetic solos on congas you can find anywhere. Nicholas Mettle was often soft on the keyboard and keyboardist Victor Dey Jnr was supreme at all times.
Blues harmonica player and singer Kwaku Opoku was next after the collective. He sings the Blues with real passion and makes his harmonica howl in different ways. The public loved his number.
American singer, Jen Staves moved the audience with her bluesy, joyful fervor and communicated well.
Her general demeanor on stage underscored the experience she had accumulated singing Blues, Rock and Jazz and making a success of for herself over decades. She was well received.
Kabudi, a Ghanaian based in the United States, was the real showman of the opening night. He played the keyboard, sang and danced.
It was a hugely entertaining time with him as he offered a mix of styles including Highlife, Reggae and Calypso. He encouraged some in the audience to come and dance.
The GH Jazz Collective was up and running again on day two. Guest trumpeter Nicholas Genest, who had already played a few times with the Collective at +233, showed off the elegant sounds he could create with his instrument’s three valves.
Andy Narrel sat down with his steepans for a few tunes for an indication of what was to come from him the next day.
Singer Abiana was also in great shape on the second day. She delighted the audience with lyrics and music, backed by the Kwame Yeboah Trio.
She performed four songs: Hewale, my home, Adur Lee and ebrahim from his recently released debut Almelo Lala album. She is surely a talent that can be counted on for greater things to come.
Multi-instrumentalist Kwame Yeboah presented a trio firmly rooted in technology. He worked with four keyboard instruments and other gadgets around him as they offered their own progressive repertoire.
Bassist Nerin Quaison-Sackey and guitarist Bill McPherson have played together as Native Vibe for 27 years and have recorded several albums. They started the closing party with the support of the GH Jazz Collective.
Kicking off with a playful song by Quaison-Sackey titled Doc and the bottle, they were on stage for about 80 minutes with a collection of vibrant harmonies. Their repertoire was either material they had written individually or what they had assembled together.
The swing and pulse of their compositions were appropriately felt by the audience. Their bond on stage could definitely be a good study in group unity.
Backed by the GH Jazz Collective and Native Vibe, Narrel delighted audiences with their superb, mostly Caribbean-infested grooves.
This was somehow unsurprising as steelpan originated in Trinidad and Tobago. His 86-minute set at one point featured well-known Ghanaian kologo player and singer, Atongo Zimba.
The musical director of the festival was Victor Dey Jnr. He is the man who made everything move, musically. There was applause from the audience almost every time he worked on one of his complex keyboard solos.
The audience also deserved a round of applause for the way they appreciated the musicians. They accompanied the music from day one.
It seemed like some of them didn’t even want to go home as they sat down for a few drinks and a chat after the last act, maybe their way of savoring the whole party a little longer.
Overall, the festival was a big hit and probably kicked +233 up a few notches as the best live music venue in the country.
The open-air room made it an excellent location for this type of production, given the era in which we find ourselves. If the management of the room manages to maintain it, the Blues and Jazz Festival could be enough of an attraction for jazz lovers in the sub-region.