Evergreen Judy Mowatt sparkles at Reggae Legends show

By Staff Writer

Judy Mowatt, Professor Nuts and Exco Levi

Allan Jones, the other half of Jones & Jones Productions, referred to Judy Mowatt as “Reggae Royalty” because “she served in the House of Marley.” So it was an easy decision for Jones to place Mowatt as the lead act for this the 7th edition “A Tribute to the Legends of Reggae”.

While Mowatt deferred to the great Bob Marley, in whose presence she thrived both as a backup singer and later came into her own, last Saturday night, Miss Mowatt needed no props to bring the audience to their feet a-singing in raptured nostalgia.

Now a 67 year-old, Ms Mowatt is all elegance as she delivered an array of Jamaica beats from Reggae to Rocksteady to Ska. Her smooth Ska moves with the famous slide step that was all grace, Ms Mowatt set the crowd a-dancing as she delivered the first Bob Marley hit “Simmer down”. This followed a wonderful rendition of Nina Simone’s version of Bob Dylan’s “I shall be released” followed by “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”

She stepped on a stage warmed by two young talented Canadian reggae artists, Kaisha Lee and Exco Levi, coming right after one of the originals of Jamaica rap, General Trees. The General is a throwback to the ancient African griots. With lots of sandpaper providing the classic DJ rasp, General Trees’ rhythmic storytelling comes from the very depth of Jamaica’s heart. This was pure, unadulterated and unapologetic Jamaica rap. It was sweet and an education to the uninitiated.

It couldn’t have been a better event to have Exco Levi and General Trees performing on the same stage during Black History Month.  Ten days ago, the Juno Awards nominations were released and both men’s names were called, both in the Reggae Recording category.

Exco Levi (Wayne Ford Levy) is a Brampton-based, Jamaican-Canadian reggae musician. Levi has already won five Juno Awards and is now in the running for a record breaking 6th time.

Sixty-year old Jamaican DJ General Trees (Amos Edwards) is involved in this year’s Juno thanks to an hour he spent in a recording studio with long-time Toronto Reggae Star Jay Douglas three long years ago.

Douglas asked Trees to add a DJ track to a song he had just written. Trees agreed and Jah’s Children was recorded. It took three years before the song dropped, and shortly after it landed the Juno Awards team noticed, and nominated Jay’s song!

This official TD Bank sponsored Black History Month concert was held in downtown Brampton’s Rose Hall on Saturday.  24-hours later, after a long bus ride down Highway 401, MC, Master T and all the same performers did it again on stage at the Jamaica Association of Montreal banquet hall.

This is not the first time that Jones and Jones have held back-to-back Black History Month concerts in two different cities. It was a successful model thought up and enacted by Denise Jones.

Her husband Allan Jones was measured as he spoke to The Caribbean Camera in the lobby of The Rose Theatre, amid a milling crowd that had just enjoyed the 7th edition of A Tribute to the Legends of Reggae: “Sometimes it’s hard to judge how well a show is going from backstage, but based on what I hear from the people, we have done well. Of course, we tend to be very strict on ourselves when it comes to quality.”

He was wistful as he spoke of this year’s absence of his wife Denise, who was at home being nursed back to health. “Denise has always been the leader, the trailblazer.” But “many of us were involved in the process – our sons Jessie and Jeremy” picked up the slack.

“We always think about what Denise would have done. You know, she is a perfectionist – this weekend is a tribute to her because she couldn’t be here tonight.”