Something magical is brewing on the West Bay Road every Wednesday night, as musicians, visitors and residents have been converging on the Havana Club along the popular Seven Mile strip for what is becoming a premier night of entertainment in Grand Cayman.
With regular guest appearances from internationally renowned music professionals such as drummer for Maxi Priest Paul Kastick, and popular Jamaican radio host Nicky Z, as well as music loving residents, Ben Turner - the progenitor of the evening’s genesis said he had a vision that this could be a possibility after noticing a grand piano at the Cuban themed cigar lounge in 2017 that was not being used.
“I was just visiting the Havana Club one night when I saw it,” he recalled, adding that he immediately felt compelled to play again even though 10 years prior he had made the decision to leave music behind and pursue a career in Information Technology.
“It was like I wasn’t even in Cayman looking at that piano and I knew I had to speak with the owner,” noted Turner.
He said upon speaking with the proprietor, Raglan Roper he was able to convey his vision and said he wanted to develop a night at the club but there was only one caveat; Ben wanted several months to work on his chops, “to get rid of the cobwebs” from not playing seriously for several years.
Upon getting the all clear from Mr. Roper to sail ahead with plans for a night of music on the ‘grand’, Turner began a strict regiment of practice and after several weeks began playing solo gigs on the grand piano at the Havana Club from about 7pm until 12am every Wednesday night.
Persons in Grand Cayman may be familiar with Turner from his days with the band Tabia, one of Cayman’s most commercially successful ensembles to date. His association with music in the Cayman Islands and internationally both past and present are well known among music aficionados and industry insiders and for many people in Grand Cayman, simply to see Ben Turner play publicly again would have been enough but Ben had different plans.
Soon he was inviting some of the Islands most promising musicians to join him. These included piano impresario Beneil Miller, Jazz Drummer extraordinaire Max Kazakov, and the multi-talented Chris Seymour. From there the night has avalanched into something that Ben Turner describes a “movement”.
With some of the Islands most talented musicians, as well as those visiting from near and far to exhibit their skills, Ben noted - “I believe that if you play an instrument and you do it to a certain proficiency it resonates with people. This is about raising the level and nurturing the very special talent we have here. I have been around the business and I feel like if I can give those coming up guidance that would be awesome. I want to see them have the impact that their talents deserve. There is a serious musical explosion about to happen in this country and I can feel it.”
Most of the musicians involved say part of what makes the night special and different from any other jam session or open mic, is the level of musicianship and the fact that Ben, Beneil, Max and Chris can play basically any song (original/cover), in any genre, in any key and pretty much on the spot. This makes for a night that is not genre specific and accommodates musicians across a vast spectrum of styles.
Beneil Miller, who is now also instrumental in the evening and has become a staple at the event, is a part of the core group of four that make up the house band. He is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and self releases his own material in addition to teaching the piano.
He told the Times that he sees Wednesday nights at Havana Club as a place where the language of music can be communicated in a fluent way that raises the expectation for what people hear and see when they go out to be entertained by live music in Grand Cayman.
“Everyone is welcome as long as they’re proficient. Whether you play a sax, guitar or piano, it doesn’t matter. It’s open to all forms and genres.
“People can also do original songs, which we can learn on the spot with a reference or they can leave a song for us to learn for another time,” he explained.
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