What a way to start the working week!
Monday night at the Jazz Cafe, with two great and well-known reggae groups: Reggae Regulars and Black Slate.
Rumour had it that ticket sales had been poor. After being sufficiently warmed up by the very able Guvner General as DJ and compere for the night, Reggae Regulars started the proceedings. Having arrived early and secured my position in front of the stage, I glanced behind me to see that the venue was full!
A little history: Reggae Regulars formed in South London in 1976; a 7 piece band comprising of Alan King and Tony Rookwood on vocals, George Clarke on keyboards, Trevor Salmon on bass, Patrick Donegan on rhythm guitar, Norman Ebanks on lead guitar and Errol Francis on drums. The group started getting attention under the management of Castro Brown for their live shows. A change of management resulted in a deal with Chris Cracknell at the newly founded Greensleeves label where they recorded their first 12 inch single entitled ‘Where is Jah’, which hit the reggae top 10 chart in February 1978.
Following hits included ‘Black Star Liner’, ‘I & I’, ‘Jah Love’ and ‘Ghetto Rock’. For those who would like to read further about the group’s history, you can find this on http://www.unitedreggae.com.
Fast forward to last night and the group appeared on stage with the new addition of reggae singer Grantie Asher on lead vocals. What a good move! Grantie beautifully delivered strong and passionate vocals for each song, rousing and stirring the crowd to cheer and applaud enthusiastically. The group’s harmonies complimented the live music as well as Grantie’s melodious voice.
By the time Grantie took off his shirt to reveal a black T-shirt underneath with the words of his signature tune ‘Look Pon Mi Black Skin’ emblazoned on the front, the audience was totally mesmerised by his vocals, by the harmonies of the band and the outstanding playing of their musical instruments. What a fantastic start!
After a 10 minute break there came the appearance of the eagerly awaited Black Slate! History lesson number two: Black Slate is a reggae band based in the United Kingdom and formed in 1972. Back then they toured heavily around London and backed Jamaican musicians such as Dennis Brown, Delroy Wilson and Ken Boothe when they played in the UK. They toured the UK in their own right for the first time in 1978 and released four albums between 1979 and 1985. Their hits include ‘Amigo’, Sticks Man’ and ‘Mind your Motion’. As with Reggae Regulars, there is a vast amount of information regarding Black Slate on the internet.
Black Slate features lead vocalist Gaven Creary son of Anthony Brightly (on keyboards), Desmond Mahoney on drums, Chris Hanson on lead guitar and Gordon Mulraine on bass. Gaven more than ably sang the signature tunes as well as recent songs like ‘Daylight’, ‘Amun’ and ‘Peaceful Demonstration’ taken from an album of the same name produced in 2016. I expected no less from Black Slate when it came to a tight and professional band. The harmonies from the backing vocalists Universal V presented a classy and professional touch indeed.
Special mention goes to the brass section: Ray Carless and Patrick Tenyue – note perfect.
The crowd sang and danced with gay abandon for the entire evening, showing their full approval and support. I skanked as if it was my last day on earth (totally mashed now). Both bands were just so very good – I had no complaints.
In a world where musically there is an increased reliance on digital techniques to replicate instruments, I still maintain that nothing beats live music both to watch and listen to.
Long may it continue. I was blessed twice over.