Seeming to share a secret they struggled to keep to themselves, the incomparable and ever-fabulous Myrna Hague and the illustrious Jimmy James, seated side by side and holding hands, opened last Saturday’s concert at the Courtleigh auditorium. Organizers couldn’t have picked a better curtain-opening optic for a show dubbed Bring Back the Love.

Dressed in a flirtatious off-the-shoulder dress resplendent with ruffles from the waist, Hague was in total control of the stage – after all, it’s one she’s performed on many times – but knew when to nod gracefully at James.

Before performances, she regaled the audience with a fascinating story of when she first saw James perform. It was at the Hammersmith Palais in London during a concert she attended with her mother when she was 15.

“It was the first time we heard a Jamaican band…an all-black band, all the other bands we heard were from the United States…and they were so beautiful and they sang so well and it was a wonderful experience. I was just smitten and my friends and I formed a Vagabonds fan club and followed them everywhere,” the Jamaica Big Band and Jamaica Jazz-Mobile lead singer said, the memory evoking her signature girly laugh.

Mega-fan that she was, however, Hague never had the chance to meet James until decades later when they were both in Jamaica and first performed on the stage together. even on which they were sitting. Their bond saw them release a CD titled Love Songs: Myrna Hague and Jimmy James.

With songs like Since I met you baby and Sentimental journey, and still holding hands and smiling, the couple transported the audience to carefree and peaceful days of love. Sticking to the theme, Jimmy James, who has shared the stage with artists including the Beatles, Sony and Cher, Rod Stewart and Bobby Womack, sang a song he wrote, telling his love “before you leave, give yourself a minute”. In closing, he told the audience, “Love is the fulfillment of the law. Only love makes free.”

After delighting the packed house, Hague and James gave way to their “dear friend from Canada”, who, once on stage in his crystal-encrusted sneakers, as they say, the pleading is done. Charming, easy-going, moving and full of dance moves and lyrics, Jay Douglas gave a performance that sparkled, as did his sneakers and the collar and hem of his white shirt.

JA PASSIONATE

His showtime version saw him ‘skanking’ as he reeled off big tunes like Lou Rawls’ You’ll never find another love like mine with his equally big voice filling the entire auditorium. He took the time to put together the backing band, the Dezi Jones All Stars, and despite his decades-long residency in Canada, Jay Douglas proved to be very passionate about Jamaica and didn’t shy away from showing his proficiency in Jamaican patois. After chatting and laughing with the audience, Douglas, who made a name for himself from Hong Kong to the Mediterranean and shared the stage with legends such as Fats Domino, Percy Sledge, Melba Moore, Toots and the Maytals and Sly and Robbie, said, ‘Mek mi do bakra wuk’, and followed by favorites such as Members only, Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours and You are my wife.

Talk with the gleaner after her performance, Douglas shared that her motto is: You’re only as good as your last performance.

“In the early years in Canada, the band I worked with was the Cougars and we had the opportunity to work with Cissy Houston – Whitney’s mother. She said, young man, when you get up there, be accountable to your audience…be smart…kick a**, and when you get offstage, come back to yourself. It was his way of saying ‘work’ to me, and it stuck with me ever since,” Douglas said.

Part 2 of Bring Back the Love featured Myrna Hague in concert with some favorites; Jimmy James in a moving solo performance; and the legend who turned 90 on Sunday, Ernie Ranglin.

With his guitar in hand, Ranglin, the guitar virtuoso who is highly respected for his unfathomable dexterity and range, gave a masterclass inside the auditorium. Ranglin, who recently played on two colorsa collaborative album with saxophonist extraordinaire, Dean Fraser, told the gleaner that he was “happy to be a part of something that Dean Fraser is doing and I just hope I can help take this project a little further”. The 12-track set was released by Tads Records and also features deejay Big Youth, on the track titled, From Ranglin.

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