Concert explores jazzy roots of reggae and more

A concert may be all about laughs, dancing and having a good time, but who says it can’t teach a serious history lesson too? The Roots of Music concert took this task to heart at their recent event last Sunday at the Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Jamaican guitarist, jazz composer and music instructor Eugene Grey led a talented crew of musicians through decades of Jamaican music, from the 1940’s jazzy big bands to 80s reggae jams. The band also performed jazz, soul and R&B classics along the Jamaican tunes, showing how both American and Jamaican music has influenced each other as both their sounds evolved.

The concert was a creative culmination for Eugene, who learned under Jamaica’s foundational jazz musicians and witness the evolution of the country’s popular music. A long disciple of jazz, as well as lover of American soul, Eugen says this concert served as an ode to those musical forefathers.

“You know what’s amazing, the [Jamaican] musicians who really transcribed the American music and helped to convert it, they were originally jazz musicians,” recalls Eugene. “All American pop came from jazz, and so did much of Jamaican music. So in my own music, I’m looking at the whole thing in a Jamaican context. How we as Jamaican play jazz, how we interpret and incorporate it with our own music.”

Eugene also works to inspire the future generation to learn more about jazz and Jamaican music, through his non-profit “American Roots of Jamaican Music” school program. The organization’s mission is to provide music education and cultural enrichment to underserved communities. Rootz of Music was awarded a Target grant in 2013 to promote the American Roots of Jamaican Music program in the schools.

“It’s really good to teach kids jazz and classical music, but there are other music too,” says the former public school educator. “So why not include all of them, teach the kids all music, as they are all evolving. We just want to share information, but in a fun way.”

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