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The Mellow Moods of Michael Sean Harris

Michael Sean Harris

Despite the very clunky title, the concert Michael Sean Harris and Friends: A Breath of Fresh Air’ was actually a refreshing evening of music, and far from the average Friday night fare. The performance took place at Redbones the Blues Cafe, New Kingston, on May 11, 2012.

A Breadth of Fresh Air and featured Harris, his viola, computer and mixing board, ably accompanied three back-up singers Karene Brown, Raquel Hinds and Ifidel Williams. Vocals were augmented by a three-piece band featuring Kamardo Blake (bass), Amardo Blake (Keys, Guitar and Vocals) and Peter Samaru (drums and percussion). 

The set wandered through genres and decades with abandon, as Harris pulled on classics, modern classics and music from his own repertoire. The pop-infused mellow lyrics of Tracey Chapman’s ‘Mountain O’ Things’ got the performance started off to a reasonably groovy beat and set the tone for the evening. Harris, quickly demonstrated the strength and range of his vocals as belted ‘Crazy’ by Gnarles Barkley.

The slew of hits to which Harris loaned his own flavour included The Platter’s ‘The Prayer’, Coldplay’s ‘The Scientist’, Jason Marz’ ‘I’m Yours’ and Bob Marley’s ‘So Much Trouble’. Harris also delivered a wonderful rendition of Imogen Heap’s ‘Hide and Seek’ inclusive of creating his own back up vocals as he played. It was a performance that Heap herself would have admired.

Harris’ original pieces also featured music from a diverse array of genres ranging from folk and blue grass to dancehall. The original pieces performed included ‘Breath of Fresh Air’, which loaned its name to the performanShantel Phillipsce,, ‘Voices’, ‘Mountain’ and ‘Table Top’, the penultimate piece for the night. 

But though he was lead singer, Harris on occasion turned the microphone over to those who comprised the ‘Friends’. Each of the three back-up singers took turn on lead vocals. Harris had jokingly indicated that the trio preferred to be called auxiliary vocals rather than back-up. With each solo performance they three proved that they did have cause to object to the title back-up. at least vocally.

Karene Brown, the first to take lead delivered a jazzy version of Lil Wayne’s ‘How to Love’.  When it was her turn, Raquel Hinds would render a blues infused version of Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’. Ifidel Williams delivered a spirited version of ‘Waiting for the World to Change’. The evening also a guest performance by Shantel Phillips. Phillips, a student at Papine High was armed with an beautiful voice tinged by innocence. She delivered a good rendition of Sarah McLachlan’s ‘Angel’.

Harris, who is currently the assistant director of the School of Music, is an accomplished and talented singer and musician. But more importantly, he is a lover of music of various genres and eras and this diversity was aptly reflected in the set.  He displayed a penchant for experimentation and a rampant imagination. All in all it was a good night, varied and consistently mellow.