Young performers score big on Ernie Smith's showcase

Jamaica Daily Gleaner
October 3, 1997

Justin Whyte, Entertainment Editor

Despite a display of poor demeanour by the audience on hearing that they had to await the late arrival of the Governor-General for the start of the show and the lack of protocol, which saw Sir Howard Cooke being compelled to stand in the hallway, while The Jamaica National Anthem was played, there are some patrons who will cherish for a long time the experience of the Ernie Smith's
30th Anniversary concert.

Excitement filled the air at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel last Sunday, as a sold-out crowd immersed themselves in sweet classic Jamaican music presented by the celebrated Ernie Smith, Pluto Shervington, Ken Lazarus, the regroup Now Generation band and their young friends.

The outpouring began about 17 minutes late, due to inconsistency in the times of arrival of the Governor-General between the organisers of the event and Kings House.

After 30 years in the music business, Ernie Smith proved to the audience that 'Life Is Just For Living'. Sharing the very special milestone were members of The New Generation Band, who came together for the occasion, having not played as an ensemble for more than two decades.

The night was characterised by an abundance of carefully selected music, ranging from the early dance floor favourites to contemporary reggae-mix, imaginative lighting and a simple, but appropriate set design.

After 30 years in the business the well-primed entertainer/musician may be starting to show a few wrinkles, but his stage presence is smooth. It gives the impression that his music is 'so bad', it is in danger of sliding right out of the speakers and congealing in a kind of shapeless pool on the floor.

Although he has been off the Jamaican music scene from the late 1970s into the mid-1990s, trends in the industry have not passed him by. Perhaps his venture into 'greener' pastures has helped the honing of his craft, in that he has bounced back with vigour and panache.

The regrouped New Generation Band gave an exemplary account of themselves, which made the audience lose their composure.

Ernie did not alight from a limousine before going on stage, as is the custom nowadays, but emerged from the audience, preceded by a beautifully choreographed dance, performed by four members of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica.

Immediately following, he was accompanied by flirtatious dancers from the ASHE Ensemble. But it was his 'Bend Down' which commanded much attention. The patrons could not help but react to his funny foot works, complemented by 'Sammy' which caused the initial stir.

A moving and inspiring presentation, a cappella style, came from his co-operation with WORD! to sing 'Didn't Know We Were Poor', arranged by Iban Hutton and Melbourne Grant.

This rendition proved the dexterity of both soloist and ensemble. The tonal blend and harmony were tremendous. As if not satisfied with his astounding presentation, Ernie continued in the same vein with 'I'm On Your Side', a tribute to Susan Couch.

But the act which brought the house down was the partnership with Pluto Shervington in presenting 'Duppy or Gunman'. The presentation reached fever pitch and members of the audience ranted and raved in frightening proportions.

Even the sound man got carried away and almost damaged our inner ear.

Pluto worked a tight and entertaining set, which transformed the auditorium into a dance hall. Ken Lazarus, in his rather cool and deadly style, thrilled the audience with his hits of yesteryear.

The American famed Johnny Nash, who was Ernie's specially invited guest, could not resist the invitation to sing when invited to do so by his host. When both took to the stage, they gave an unforgettable presentation of Bob Marley and the Wailers' 'Nice Time'.

Of particular interest were some energetic and professional presentations by showbiz's newest sensations 'TO ISIS', The Grafton Singers and Nza. They combined talent and style with attractive stage presence and musicianship.

These child prodigies hit the right chord for the already satisfied crowd, who applauded and punctuated their appreciation with shouts of approval.

Using well-blended harmonies and skilfully arranged cadenzas, coupled with a backing band with extraordinary musical talents, they immortalised R&B rhythms which were tempered by 'good' reggae beats.

Congratulations to show producers Bert Rose and Mickey 'Moo' Chung, Janet Smith, Carol Gray and Laurence Tulloch for the fantastic show concept and design, which will go down in history. Bravo!

Copyright 1997 Jamaica Daily Gleaner