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Redbones Adds Its Own Book to it's Cultural Menu

Evon Williams

The night was more a concert than a book launch. But given that it was a book about Redbones the Blues Cafe, that is not too surprising. On Wednesday, November 21, Redbones deepened its imprint on Kingston’s cultural landscape with the launch of the coffee table book Redbones 15, and an almost never-ending stream of musicians and a few poets came to pay homage.

Over its lifetime, the restaurant has established itself as a home for music, literature and the visual arts. The book highlight’s the restaurants impressive history and includes contributions by Prof. Carolyn Cooper on literature, Melville Cooke on music, and Jacqueline Hussey on Cuisine.

As always a man of few words, restauranteur Evon Williams made light of the launch, chuckling as he said he forgot it wasn’t just a party. Yet Williams pointed out that the book reflects the varied cultural happenings that have taken place at the venue. “We’veTessanne and Michael Sean Harris deliver 'The Prayer' had over 250 performers on this stage,” Williams said, including the restaurant’s former home in his count. Redbones was opened on December 6, 1996, and on March 17, 2010, moved to its current location on Argyle Road.

“Words have always been on the menu at Redbones,” Cooper said in her brief address. She noted that the restaurant facilitated the whole cultural spectrum. Her sentiments were repeated by the various speakers for the evening including Jacqueline Hussey, Herbie Miller (director Jamaica Music Museum), and Stephanie Scott (Restaurant Week Jamaica).

“Dining is not just about food. It’s about an experience and dining at Redbones is always an experience,” Scott said. Miller had shared her sentiment and noted that the Redbones model was worth replicating across the island.

A light drizzling of poetry was served with the speeches. Chandis, delivered ‘Raindance’ and Clement Hamilton performed ‘As the Number Counts to Infinity’. Much later in the night, poet and one-man band Mbala, would deliver ‘Jazzing in the War Zone’ a blend of music and poetry.

But first, it was time for the musicians to take over the night, presenting a relentlessly varied fare that spoke to the diverse acts that have populated the stage over the years.

Guitarist Maurice Gordon was the first to take the stage, delivered some acoustic blues in in a fitting tribute to Williams, a confessed lover of the blues. Gordon was followed to the stage by Samuele Vivian who brought another guitar flavour to the night with ‘Mediterranea’. The two guitarists, who also play as the duet Nylon and Steel, then joined forces to deliver ‘The Night’.

The short reign of instrumentalists continued with Tafane Buchsaecab who delivered a very mellow version of ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ on saxophone. Buchsaecab was followed by Harold Davis, accompanied by Ozune on keyboards, who performed ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ and a jazz re-interpretation of ‘Book of Rules’.

Michael Sean Harris then took over the night and transported the audience back to the 1980s with a few ballads including Chicago’s ‘Hard to Say I’m Sorry’. Harris would later return to the stage for one of the break-out performances of the night as he delivered an outstanding rendition of ‘The Prayer’ with Tessanne.

Tessanne had joined guitarist Seretse Small on the stage. Small had just completed his own solo set which included a slow jazz inflected version of ‘No Woman No Cry’. Together, Small and Tessanne performed ‘Concrete Jungle’ after which Harris returned to the stage. It was one of the night’s most magical moments.

“I’ve always wanted to sing that song with him,” Tessanne said at the end as the audience caught its collective breadth. The singer ended her piece of the evening with her own ‘Take You There’.

Wayne McGregor and Katie Iver of Black ZebraIt was then time for the bands to take over the night. ‘Gas Money’ was the first to take the stage. Despite some guitar troubles, they managed to deliver ‘Where Wi Deh’ and ‘Conundrum’. Although their lead-singer looks like the definition of the anti-rocker, it was an enjoyable rock set.

The genre was continued and kicked up a notch with the arrival of the next band to take over, Black Zebra, which delivered stirring combinations of rock and reggae. The band began with their original pieces ‘New Direction’ and ‘Provide’. Then lead singer, Wayne McGregor relinquished the microphone to Katie Iver who further stirred up the audience with Tracey Chapman’s ‘Give Me One Reason’. Bob Marley’s ‘The Sun is Shining’ then got the hardrock treatment with McGregor back on the microphone. The band rounded out their set with ‘All That Glitters’ featuring Omar Azan on lead vocals.

By the time Kidus I took to the stage, Wednesday was turning into Thursday and the long night had proven that Redbones is indeed an important cultural space which should mean that Redbones 15 has a lot to offer. The book will be on sale at the restaurant.