Selected by Dan Grunebaum
Courtesy of Blue Note Tokyo
Summer in Japan means reggae, and who better to
launch the season than Maxi Priest, the British superstar who arrives for a week of
engagements at the Blue Note Tokyo in June?
Born Max Elliot in Manchester, England in 1962, Maxi Priest changed his name upon
converting to Rastafarianism. Discovered building sound systems, Priest made his first
recordings as a DJ, but then developed his signature sweet, soulful vocal style under the
watchful eye of producer Barry Boom for his debut, You' Safe, in 1985.
A string of minor hits including "Crazy Love" followed, but Priest didn't really
hit his stride until recording a cover of Cat Stevens' "Wild World" in 1988. The
crossover success of the song propelled Priest onto the world stage, and over the past
decade he has been a regular visitor to Japan, including headlining stints at Reggae
Japansplash and other big summer festivals.
Later hits by Priest continued to define his style as a king of lovers' rock,
notwithstanding the politics suggested by his bountiful dreadlocks. They include a number
one hit in 1990 in the US with "I Just Want to Be Close to You," a top ten duet
with Roberta Flack, "Set the Night to Music," and most recently, "That
Girl," the 1996 megahit featuring gruff-voiced MC Shaggy. Priest returned to form
last year with two album releases, a live album followed by the well-received CombiNation.
The booking of Priest this time at the Blue Note Tokyo instead of a concert hall or
festival offers the rare opportunity to enjoy the singer close up and personal-ideal
considering his intimate stage presence.
Maxi Priest plays the Blue
Note Tokyo on 6/26-7/1. See listings