A tireless crusader for quality live music, Seretse Small used to put on a monthly Jam at the Hilton Hotel (now the Wyndham) called the “Jammers Network”. Through an invitation from her daughter, Arlene Campbell a member of Hope United Church heard the music and saw the energy of the performers and felt that this experience could be used to help raise funds for the church’s many projects, especially its building fund.
That was back in the year 2000. Now, his persistence has begun to bear fruit as, “Jazz for Hope 2011” scheduled for July 9 at the Church grounds (221 Old hope Road), will mark the eleventh year of progress for the event, a milestone which follows on the recent successful staging of the Global battle of the Bands (which saw Jamaican winners Dubtonic Kru going on to take it all in Malaysia earlier this year), and other live music ventures. The Jazz for Hope series has always been well received and to date has contributed over half a million dollars of much-needed funds to the Church.
This year, Small – himself a product of the Church-funded Mona Prep School – returns to his customary role as featured performer, a duty which in recent years he had delegated to a number of other top-flight acts (built up through the same Jammer’s Network) as other commitments – like touring with deejay Sean Paul – intervened. Those acts have included Karen Smith, Ozou’ne, Benjy Myaz, Dwight Richards and Othniel Lewis.
Small will be bringing all his well known improvisational skills and genuine feel for the music to this year’s stint. His advocacy for music and musicians has seen him actively contributing to organization such as the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts, JACAP and, more recently, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JARIA). A veteran now at balancing musicianship and business, Small, the founder and CEO of Griot Music, is now focusing on two related ventures, Ready Media Rental (PA and other equipment and services for events) and Event Music Planner.
This year’s bill also features saxophonist Ian Hird, and the vocals of Andrew Lawrence. Hird and Seretse go back quite a way together as they were batchmates at the Jamaica School of Music in the 1980’s. Hailing from a family of accomplished musicians, and also an alumnus of the legendary Alpha Boys School, Hird is an accomplished multi-reedist, playing a range of saxophones as well as the flute. As music teacher at Ardenne High School, he is helping to shape the next generation of Jamaican musical greats. Hird also took time to travel to St Lucia in May for the world famous Jazz Festival in that Caribbean nation.
More well known these days as an emcee, commercial pitchman, radio personality (FAME-FM) and news anchor (JNN), Andrew Lawrence has rock-solid credentials as a gospel singer, having performed with seminal bands such as CHANGE. His authoritative baritone is just as capable rendering Stevie Wonder and other pop and reggae favourites and even opera and stage musical numbers. Lawrence also puts his knowledge to good use as a selector, playing for parties and office functions.
Showtime for Jazz for Hope is 8 pm. The night, Small says, will be filled with love songs, jazz standards, interpretations of Jamaican music and gospel jazz. A pre-recorded companion CD will also be available at the event, so that patrons can take the “sounds of Hope” with them as they leave and also for others.