Organisers of the Ocho Rios Jamaica Jazz Festival —scheduled for June 3 to 10 — are 'jazzing up' the annual event with a few changes.
At its launch at Kingston's The Wine Shop last Friday, principal Myrna Hague said the Jazz Cruise will be replaced with an all-inclusive Jazz Day at FDR Hotel in Runaway Bay, St Ann, which starts festivities.
The Jazz Cruise was a new addition in 2016. Hague said the 6:00 pm departure from Kingston Harbour was an issue for several patrons.
“I know a lot of people who were on the cruise the first year loved it…but they said the late hour just doesn't work and in fact we lost money the second year because of it,” she told the Jamaica Observer. “I don't think it will negatively affect the festival because people are interested in the festival and in the music...I think the event at FDR is gonna be awesome.”.
Jam sessions will be held at the Moon Palace Hotel in Ocho Rios on June 5 and 7, and at the Wine Shop on June 6 and 8.
For a fourth consecutive year, the Mico University College has partnered with the festival to host a free jazz workshop on June 6. Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Liberal Arts, Janet Ismay-Kerr said the seminar has been well-received by students.
“The students benefit because many of them have a deep interest in jazz, [and]now they are seeing the real people who are deliverers of the genre. They also have the opportunity of talking with them and asking questions,” said Ismay-Kerr.
The Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) is also collaborating with the organisers to host the jazz concert, Twin Double, on June 8. Pianist Stephen Scott and bassist Curtis Lundy will perform, as well as pianist Marjorie Whylie and Hague.
Herbie Miller, director at the Jamaica Music Museum at the IOJ, announced a special partnership with the festival.
“Myrna and I have discussed how we can rebrand the festival, how to make it much more vibrant,” Miller said.
The Ocho Rios Jazz Festival was conceived by Hague and her husband Cecil “Sonny” Bradshaw in 1991 to showcase traditional jazz. Hague says things changed after her husband died in 2009, and rebranding is necessary.
“After my husband died and the music changed so much, Ocho Rios no longer supported the event, so we started to bring more and more events to Kingston. So it's really called Ocho Rios Jazz Festival, but most of the events are in Kingston now. So we're thinking about how to rebrand it without losing its essence, to give it a new name…,” Hague said.
Hope Gardens' BandShell in Kingston will host the final day. Belgian band Freddy Loco and his ska/jazz group, along with vocalist June Lawson, Jamaica Big Band — under the direction of Whylie, and all-female group Indigo will perform.
Hague has invited wards of the National Children's Home in Papine to attend, as she believes children should be exposed to jazz. She said a misconception of the genre is that it is “foreign and white”, which is a notion she wants to change.