The love of music and the talent to play it is in Jazz Gittens’ blood. The talented 19-year-old was born and raised in a home where music was ever present.
Jazz, who is the son of renowned local musician, composer and arranger Roger Gittens, said it was the piano which caught his attention from an early age.
“I started playing classical piano around eight years old. Sibling rivalry and my environment inspired me to play piano. My dad played piano every day and he would take us to his rehearsals, soundchecks, gigs and most events involving live music from a young age. It grew on me as my ears adjusted to the combination of arrangements, sounds, feelings and instruments. However, what captivated my interest was the piano,” he told Bajan Vibes.
His parents Roger and mum Sharon-Rose sent him and his brother to lessons. “My dad sent both my brother, Myles Gittens and I to piano and violin lessons. My brother pursued the violin more, and I stopped while I pursued the piano more and he stopped. I was never the sibling to say: ‘I want to be like my brother/sister.’ I wanted my own identity and path.”
At the time, Jazz was attending Hilda Skeene Primary School. He then moved on to Christ Church Foundation School. He has an Associate Degree in Natural Science – biology, physics and mathematics at the Barbados Community College (BCC). Although his area of study was natural science, he spent most of his time at BCC in the music department. Jazz also passed his Trinity College Grade 6 music exam with merit.
He credits his teachers for investing so heavily in him.
“Mrs Suzanne Henry instilled the right techniques from a young age. Mr Lowrey Worrel, Laura Payne and Brian Cole – all music teachers at the time I spent at Christ Church Foundation School – placed me in more practical situations to play other genres such as reggae, pop, funk, etc.”
Now Jazz prefers to perform funk, soul, calypso jazz and jazz. However, lately, his interest is in adding a twist to spouge because it is Barbadian music.
He won the Junior Monarch in 2012 performing under the stage name Jazz-Z. Since then, he has played on the European cruise liner, MV Ventura. He has also created original music.
“I created a song called “Coconuts on a Sunday”. I haven’t professionally recorded it. I do more covers, compositions and arrangements. When I’m creating a song, I look at the mood, who is it for (audience), what is the purpose (lullaby, sing-a-long, listen), is it an accompaniment (if I’m working with another artiste) or feature, the style I intend to use, the melody, harmonic structure, instrumentation, the effectiveness of the above factors to convey my message and if I accomplished what I wanted or heard. It’s a process. My goal is to make good music. That’s all.”
Jazz told Bajan Vibes how the opportunity to play on the cruiseliner came about.
“I’m currently a member of an all-bajan band Serious Soundz, a party band on board the MV Ventura. They were looking for a keyboardist and I was recommended. The guy I replaced, Marlon Showtime Brathwaite contacted me and the rest was history.”
The pianist is also a member of the local, youthful and talented band Altered 5th.
“Before the ship life, I played with Altered 5th The Band. This band was originally the Ricky Brathwaite Ensemble at the BCC. One evening, their usual pianist couldn’t make it; my mum was running late, so I filled in. They agreed that I could join the group. They appreciated my sound and energy. Since I was never a music student, they later formed the band Altered 5th because they were five members, Judah Goddard (steel pan), Zukeli Inniss (sax), Lashon Brathwaite (drums), Elyan Gordon (bass) and myself. When I’m away, Danielle Brathwaite would substitute.”
Jazz has a long list of achievements and performances under his belt. In 2017, he played with the Christ Church Foundation School Band at CARIFESTA. He played in the Junior Monarch Apprenticeship Band in 2018. Also in 2018, he performed at the G Syndicate Christmas Concert, and at the Barbados Film Festival at the National Museum with Zukeli Inniss.
In 2019, he performed at Fusions. He has freelanced as a musician at The Crane Resorts, Sandals, The Sandpiper and Hilton. He performed at Festive Friday’s and at the SIFF- Small Island Future Fest. He played at the Cultural Pop Up shows in Six Roads, Hastings on the Boardwalk and the Oistins Fish Festival. Earlier this year, he was band leader for the St Lucy We Gathering 2020 band backing Ch’an, Shadia Marshal and Carol George.
Jazz has assisted at The Ifill School in preparation for the Junior Calypso Monarch. He also taught at BCC’s Summer Camp for musicians.
But even with all he has already accomplished Jazz is intent on doing much more.
“My main musical goal is a life goal to do better than yesterday. There is always room for improvement. Another musical goal is to form my own jazz trio by January 2, 2022.”
Jazz believes the local music industry is “disorganized and saturated”. He thinks the fraternity can benefit from having a union, rules and regulations. However, he does not want that to deter potential musicians. He encourages them to dream big and pursue their dreams.
“My advice to any young person pursuing a career in music or the arts would be to stay true to yourself, look across the globe for opportunities and always improve on what you love.”
The talented teen knows well that life is about balance so he mixes work with “play”.
“I love sports, especially football. I love travelling the world and I love to help others. I also like to jog, read, go to the beach and spend time enjoying nature. To unwind, I focus on my breathing, drink tea, water and take evening walks.”
Jazz’s main focus is to live a comfortable life by being hardworking and focused.
“Honesty, generational growth and determination matter. I try to assist where I can and stay true to each task. A simple quote I live by is: ‘A man can never be sinless yet he can sin less’ and once I stay honest and determined with the right attitude, I will be able to achieve whatever I set my mind to,” the musician said. (IMC)