For American saxophonist Brent Birckhead (left), a visit to Jamaica, under the auspices of the United States Embassy was a coveted gig, and not just for a tropical break in the middle of winter. Through a workshop hosted by the Embassy on the campus of the capital city's Edna Manley College for the performing arts(EMC), it offered the 2010 Downbeat Poll winner a chance to connect with the renowned Jamaican musical spirit
For youngsters like trumpet player Sheldon Griffiths(below left) from Kingston's troubled and depressed inner cities, it meant even more. The lanky Griffiths, who is part of a charity programme called St Patrick's Foundation played Bob Marley's No Woman Nuh Cry, in the process inspiring the clinician who after a minute or two of . listening to Griffiths, eased into the tune with dexterity and tenderness
In addition to St Patrick's The workshop participants were drawn from members of the Jamaica Combined Cadet Force Band, the Sam Sharpe Community Band from the western capital of Montego Bay, students at the EMC, and high schools from the southern parishes of Clarendon, St Catherine and the capital, Kingston.
After bringing all the participants on the auditorium stage for an impromptu "group improv" Birckhead challenged the gathering to nourish a vision of themselves as great and to practice so that they could one day eclipse him and other leading players.
The programme, which also included a live performance the following evening inside Kingston's Emancipation Park, came at a time when Kingston's music scene, in deep depression after a vibrant heyday (up to the mid 1980s) is once again showing signs of life. Venues new and old are offering live programmes with instrumental as well as vocal performers.