Review: Groovin’ On A Sunday Afternoon – Marcia Griffiths and Friends, Chronixx and Beres Hammond

 New York City: ‘Groovin’ in the Park’ formerly Reggae Rhythm and Blues, made a statement seeking to replace Irie Jamboree, the largest music/reggae music festival held at Roy Wilkins Park in New York City.  Weather-wise the 4th staging of ‘Groovin’ in the Park’ was perfect day. Groovin’ featured an impressive array of talent, taken from superb blend of Jamaican music history. It was the best of the past and present with main attraction Australian pop duo Air Supply.  ‘Groovin’ near capacity crowd was treated to a memorable family event of entertainment. 

The Marcia Griffiths and Friends package, performance blew the audience away. The magic was that was the highlight of Reggae Sum-fest 2013, drew on the catalogue of timeless Jamaican classics from every era of Jamaican popular music. In her many resplendent outfits Griffiths looked regal and classy and, both in her duet and solo performance she was excellent as she navigated the eras in her fifty year milestone in Jamaican music business.  Her friends featured were: the inimitable Mr. Bob Andy. Andy is arguably Jamaica’s greatest song writer and also a great stylist. He as part of the historical duo of Bob and Marcia reprised their  1960’s and early 70’s with international hits such their  BBC Chart topping remake of Nina Simone’ “Young Gifted and Black” and, “Pied Piper” and “ Fire Burning.”  But it was when they sang “Really Together We Belong” it became nostalgic magic. Bob Andy’s solo set saw him rolling out his slice the great Jamaican catalogue of music such as “I Have got to Go Back Home” “Unchained Melody” “Too Experienced” and “Feeling Soul.”         

Judy Mowatt, in her regal beauty was in superb form for her reunion with Griffiths. Mowatt gave a consummate professional entertaining performance with hits like, the seminal anthem “Black Woman” “Many Are Called “(few are chosen) “Slave Queen” and the first woman’s liberation song “Only a Woman.”  Judy showed why her return to the secular Jamaican stage should be permanent. As I listened to Judy I looked the young women grooving to her message and wonder if they got the message of the dignity of being a female to be respected. 

Ken Boothe, Mr. Rock Steady hit parade, who was substituting for the ailing John Holt, who had an operation, did it like only Ken can. In his irrepressible and thoroughly entertaining style he reeled of his catalogue Jamaican classics like his 1960’s hit “The Train is Coming” his remake this one in 1990’s and it was the theme song for the Woody Harrelson/ Wesley Snipes Movie “Money Train”, “Puppet On a String” “Silver Words” w/Marcia Griffiths and his 1973 BBC Chart topping remake of soft rock group Bread’s “Everything I Own.”  80’s dancehall DJ Lady G joined Marcia on stage for an impromptu session both had the park rocking.                                                                                    

The rising stars section opened the show featured were Congo Brainz, Ras Michael granddaughter Kamsha Morris, who made her presence felt. Hot new VP artist Tasha T, did like only Tasha T can, with roots style. Faraji and Ky-enie delivered stellar performances.  L.U.S.T, a R&B sounding quartet of some of the finest voices in music- Lukie D, Thriller U, Singing Melody and Tony Curtis- was a crowd favorite. Their set could do well with a choreographer and a musical director to structure their show. 

The show sustained further into the cool summer night as Australian pop duo Air Supply took over from Beres, pounding the park with their chart-topping sing-along list of love songs.

Tony Gregory, the 70 something year old, who is celebrating sixty years in Jamaican music, looked nothing past forty. In his brief set his stagecraft was a virtuoso command performance. On hits like “Gipsy” he gave masterful demonstration of the best of the vocal tradition of how to stand and deliver in song. And deliver he did.

Chronixx, the Rasta youth, at 21 may be new, but to the New York audience he is reggae’s new “it” factor. With the unforgettable moniker and catchy tagline ‘Here Comes Trouble, Here Comes the Danger’ both designed to make audiences stand up and take notice Chronixx seems to have his generation’s pulse on lock and his elders in respectful awe. This Rasta youth had Roy Wilkins Park crowd enthralled and energized from his first note. He didn’t let them go until his last. 
In more than two decades I, as music journalist, have not seen a young singer bridge the gap between the hardcore dance-hall generations so effectively. With seemingly equally adeptness through three genres; a touch of lovers’ rock, akin to Don Campbell and Gregory Isaacs,  the seriousness of one drop roots culture lyrically, a la Marley  and his generation- dancehall. Chronixx certainly have the “it” charisma working for him. He moved seamlessly, through his great romantic love songs, hardcore dance hall Dj-ing  (Behind the Curtain)and roots and culture consciousness. This Rasta sing jay-singer came alive, with an animate authentic vibe, as he would two weeks later at the Howard Theater in DC, as he sings conscious songs like the insecure, cautionary  lover’s tale, “Don’t Take My Love for Granted,  he groove  on  “Access Granted.” His romantic lover’s songs are sweet lover’s groove reminiscent of Maxi/Beres/Gregory and a combination of Blackman/wo-man Redemption song. On the ambiguous “Smile Jamaica’ he seems to be serenading a girl and the island.  Judging by the reaction of the ladies in the audience, it didn’t matter. Chronixx, who like Bob Marley, is not possessed with a pure singer’s voice, his orgasmic passion, touching organic charisma and lyrical prowess radiated throughout the 18,000 plus audience. Purer singer voices like Chris Martin and Romain Virgo, on lover’s rock Chronixx stack up with them.
 What a musical pedigree, the Zinc Fence Redemption band. Comprised of the sons from reggae bloodline royal houses, the sons of 809 Band, Nambo Robinson, Chalice foundation member and jazz great Monty Alexander drummer Dessi Jones, and 3rd World Cat Coore took the audience a music odyssey, with cure all reggae remedy. 
Despite Chronixx’s euphoric vibes, when reggae luminary Beres Hammond hit the stage, he was electrifying with crooning his hits such as Rockaway, What One Dance Can Do, Can You Play Some More and other hits. He was joined by Shaggy on their latest hit on the ‘Sitting and Watching’ riddim (Dennis Brown Sly and Robbie) Can’t Fight This Feeling.
Yvette Clarke, US Congresswoman from Brooklyn, who is staple at these Caribbean events, gave congressional proclamations to Tony Gregory, Marcia Griffith, Bob Andy and Ken Boothe in recognition of collective contribution to the genre of music.