My Journey into Jazz

I am not a musician – though I wish I were – nor do I consider myself a connoisseur of music. But I do love to listen, sing along with (when no one is listening!), and dance to a wide variety of music depending on my mood – reggae (old – mento, ska, rocksteady – and new), soca and calypso, classical, country, gospel, soul, and jazz.

I guess I am moved to reflect on my journey into jazz because of my involvement in hosting Treasure Beach Jazz Escape, the South coast leg of the International Jamaica Ocho Rios Jazz festival at Two Seasons Guest House, Treasure Beach, in the parish of St. Elizabeth. (How I came to own and run a guest house offering bed and breakfast is for another blog!).

Two Seasons Guest House is located on an acre and a quarter of gently sloping land, with an expansive lawn to the front of the building. Construction began in July 2007 and we opened for business in May 2008. As marketing the property has been a priority from the outset, late in 2008 I casually asked my friend Gwyneth who is in public relations, how I could get the media to write about Two Seasons. Her response was “have an event”. With that the seed was planted.

Next question: what kind of event?

For some years, I have had the pleasure of attending many of the Jazz in the Garden shows put on at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston every two months or so. I discovered that dub poet, Mutabaruka, was also a jazz aficionado and was a selector at one of the sessions. In his own words, he has one of the best jazz collections in Jamaica. In addition to enjoying the music, the comfortable atmosphere with about 200-300 persons gathered in the garden setting is appealing. Usually seated somewhere in the first few rows in front of the gazebo converted to stage, I got a close up view of the tremendous talent of our Jamaican artistes and some from overseas: Karen Smith, Kathy Brown, Dean Fraser, Ouida Lewis, Harold Davis, Desi Jones… and many more.

Come to think of it, I also used to go to the Jazz in the Basement sessions that were held in the Mutual Life building at the corner of Old Hope Road and Oxford Road in Kingston in the 1980s.  Desi Jones was a regular there. I wonder, is it the same beret that he wore then that he still wears today? On reflection, even while I have my flings with reggae and soca, I have been flirting with jazz for many years. King Curtis (who was killed in 1971) was one of the few artistes whose albums I searched out and bought.

Treasure Beach Jazz Escape 2010 poster

So the answer to the question, “what kind of event?”, was: a jazz concert. But what did I know about organizing a jazz concert? It’s one thing to sit in the audience (although I did pick up some pointers from that perspective), quite another to stage the show. My saving grace was linking up with the late Sonny Bradshaw, founder of the International Jamaica Ocho Rios Jazz festival. He and wife, Myrna Hague, herself an international jazz vocalist and co-producer of the festival, guided me every step of the way to the first staging of jazz on the lawns of Two Seasons Guest House on June 20, 2009. 

I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet and work with Sonny prior to his passing in October of that year. I learned so much from both him and Myrna in the short space of time.In June 2010, Two Seasons teamed up with the Treasure Beach Women’s Group and the Open Heart Charitable Mission for the second staging of Treasure Beach Jazz Escape. The charities benefited from part proceeds.

We look forward to an even more successful staging of Treasure Beach Jazz Escape on Saturday, June 18, 2011 – the day before father’s day. So take note of the date and plan to make it a special weekend with the father in your life.

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