Every now and then we all need a little Reggae madness. Well, last week, that is exactly what I got. However, it was not so much madness as it was an adventure. I was invited to head over to the Highline Ballroom to watch the hip reggae band, Morgan Heritage, perform. Man, again I am struck by how much star-driven talent there is in a big band line-up. Not only are they a big band, but a family band at that. The show was more than just a reggae jam, but rather a reggae funk that got even the hippest cats into the groove.
Last Thursday was my company’s bi-weekly happy hour at my favorite bar in Manhattan, Beer Culture. After trying out some new beers and even sampling a habanero beer, I stumbled my way downtown to the Highline Ballroom. I entered the ballroom upstairs onto the crowd floor. All the lights were low with some blue and green emitting throughout. Although the crowd was small, there were plenty of people relaxing in lounge booths, by the stage and comfortably up in the balcony. Probably the largest gathering of people included couples and families who were joined together for an evening of music. People were ready for a good night of entertainment. There was a chill cool vibe going on in that place supported by a peaceful reggae feel. Rasta men were scattered throughout and ladies were making sure that the bar kept flowing with martinis in almost every hand. While the crowd consisted of mainly folks 30 years and older, there was a surprising amount of college students, especially girls that filled up the dance floor. The last time I was at the Highline Ballroom was back around Christmastime for my company’s holiday party that was off the hook. It was rather bizarre to see the space all calm and clean in comparison with the chaos of that event.
Key tracks of Morgan Heritage’s songbook include; She’s Still Loving Me, Tell Me How Come and Down By The River. Give them a listen and you will be able to gather a bit of what goodness they offer. I waited a while as the band lingered on stage with intermittent announcements from the MC alerting us that a great night of music was on its way. Via a powerful intro, first to come out was Jemere Morgan, who was our introduction to the Morgan family. He provided us with a nice form of Rastafarian rap with funky strong beats. Again, there is a strong horn presence with this performance that always pleases my ears. Jemere was swinging left to right on stage and high fiving fans all the way. Everyone in the space promptly began slow grooving and loved it. The band was also slow grooving, with each member living in the moment. Jamming was the theme of this music as long sessions were introduced and welcomed as Jemere began chatting with the ladies in the audience. After one final song, it was the moment everybody was waiting for, the full Morgan Heritage.
Now, upon their arrival it did not occur to me that Morgan Heritage was one full funk family! Morgan Heritage consists of the family mob: Peetah Morgan (vocals), Una Morgan (keyboard/vocals), Roy “Gramps” Morgan (keyboard/vocals), Nakhamyah “Lukes” Morgan (rhythm guitar) and Memmalatel “Mr. Mojo” Morgan (percussion/vocals). All the music began to come alive; they did not waste a second. With rocking keys and full percussion flowing with hot drums, Morgan Heritage were obviously the coolest people ever. Each member of the male entourage, save for Peetah, were rocking sunglasses in the dark space. The Morgan family were all smiles as they performed and it was plain that they were having a blast. Morgan Heritage are musicians in the purest form who were absolutely involved with their music. Fans who knew their stuff began jumping for joy for each song. All their songs had strong a chorus from the members of the reggae roots crew of which I thought added a sense of authority to their tunes. It felt like a preaching reggae choir and the Highline Ballroom was the chapel.
Each song surged into the next. Morgan Heritage provided seamless movement. Instrumentally, the musicians conveyed elaborate soul sounds in their music that was supported by their united voices. Their voices were strong. You could tell that the band had a robust sense of harmony with one another as they played. At one point in the show, they released a big band 80s reggae feel. I loved that part especially with the horns blowing. All the Morgans had their solo pieces that usually involved intense rap or R & B. The talent that was unleashed in those instants gave us chills as the wonder of the music came alive.
I had listened to these guys earlier in the week via their albums and I got to say, they have a much more lasting power live. Evidence of this included the roaring crowd and the lighters that swayed in their hands. Viewers felt as if they were a part of this family bond. The audience was a world of dancers and lovers of music. I think you can join too, just take a listen below to Perform And Done and So Amazing. Enjoy!