Faced with the need to increase the numbers of passengers travelling to the island, Allen Chastenet, the then Vice President of Air Jamaica envisioned an event that would solve his problem by encouraging visitors to come to Jamaica. Enlisting the support of well established and experienced producer Walter Elmore, he put together a team and in November 1996, with an audience of 1,500 persons, the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival was born overlooking the sea, on the beautiful lawns of the historic Rose Hall Great House. Over the next three years, the Festival presented a variety of exceptional musicians including George Benson, Erykah Badu, Najee, The Isley Brothers, Black Uhuru and many more.
The festival was originally targeted at jazz and blues enthusiasts, attracted audiences of 1,500 to 2,000, and was held in November each year. Various factors including heavy rains which occur at that time of the year encouraged the organizers to move the dates of the festival to the end of January, another traditionally slow tourism period. With limited audiences and increasing expenditure, the event eventually became a drain on Air Jamaica’s coffers, and in 2004 the festival was sold to Walter Elmore, one of the original members of the festival team. Elmore, with many years of experience in the production of large events, formed TurnKey Productions, which then became the owner and producer of the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival.
The festival grew tremendously under Elmore’s watch, attracting crowds of over 30,000. In 2009 Air Jamaica relinquished the title sponsorship to the Jamaica Tourist Board and the festival became known as the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival.
The Festival is produced and presented by TurnKey Productions, a company which also produces several other large music festivals in the Caribbean.
Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival set for January 30 – February 1, 2014.