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By Basil Walters——

WITH the country’s 50th anniversary Independence celebrations in August, the June 9-17 Jamaica International Ocho Rios Jazz Festival, will have a largely Jamaican cast.

Singer Jimmy James (of the Vagabonds’ fame), is headliner for the opening concert at Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston.

This was disclosed by festival director Myrna Hague-Bradshaw at its launch at the Hotel Four Seasons, Ruthven Road, St Andrew.

“The main feature of this year’s jazz is that it is going to be mostly Jamaicans. All the very best, the very top-of-the-line Jamaican musicians will be there,” she said.

“We have Jimmy James who is coming in from the United Kingdom, he is not a jazz singer, but he is a Jamaican singer who has been part of the whole Jamaican 50th (musical) development since the earliest of days,” Hague-Bradshaw added.

James, a balladeer, has lived in the UK since the 1960s.

The festival, which is being held for the 22nd time, was conceived by Hague-Bradshaw’s husband, bandleader Sonny Bradshaw, who died in 2009.

Herbie Miller, director of the Jamaica Music Museum, in his address, said it is important that a new generation understand the importance of jazz to the development of Jamaican popular music.

“Seen that this year being Jamaica 50, it is fitting that the festival focuses on Jamaican jazz. We have produced some tremendous jazz musicians in excess of 50 years,” Miller stated.

“People like Dr Leslie Thompson, Bertie King, Dizzy Reece, Joe Harriott, just to name a few. And as much as we have a good crop among us today, the historic part if it is in danger of being lost.”

Miller noted that Jamaican musicians recorded with great artistes like Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Mary Lou-Williams, Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

“Again, we look at what has jazz helped us to produce. You come right away to the Skatalites. Because when you listen to ska you are really listening to jazz on a ska beat,” said Miller.

The remainder of the lineup for opening night are keyboardists Marjorie Whylie, Dr Kathy Brown, Joy Brown, Dr Carol Ball and Kamla Hamilton along with singer Karen Smith and drummer Desi Jones.

The following evening, veteran keyboardist Harold Butler is featured act at Hotel Four Seasons.

From June 11-15, there will be jazz workshops at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts with Miller and Whylie as presenters.

Also on June 15, a banquet dubbed Dinner Jazz is scheduled for Glenn’s Jazz Club in Tower Isle, just outside Ocho Rios.

Jazz Treasures takes place June 16 at the Two Seasons Guest House in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth.

Closing day has a packed slate. It comprises Guitar Conversations with Wigmoore Francis and Rupert Bent; Battle of the Horns with Everald Gayle, Ian Hird, Vivian Scott, Harold Tinglin, Romeo Gray and Micky Hanson; Ba Boom, Mary Isaacs, Desi Jones, and Harold Davis.


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