Wednesday, 14 October 2009

TRANSITION: Sonny Bradshaw (1926-2009)

BIG BAND MAN: The late Sonny Bradshaw

Musician, band leader and cultural icon Cecil 'Sonny' Bradshaw is dead. The entertainment veteran passed away in a London hospital last Saturday night, after ailing for months after suffering a stroke while visiting the United Kingdom in August. He had been hospitalised in the UK since then.

Bradshaw, who was 83 at the time of his passing, was responsible for the formation of the big band, which included stalwart musicians like Dwight Pinkney. He was also married to jazz and blues songbird Myrna Hague.

In the 1950s, Bradshaw formed the Sonny Bradshaw Seven, which became the training ground for many of Jamaica's top brass musicians, including Desi Jones and Dean Fraser. Besides the trumpet and piano, Bradshaw also played the clarinet, trombone and saxophone.

Bradshaw was also a major driving force behind the successful Ocho Rios Jazz Festival, and he also hosted the 1970s radio show, Teenage Dance Party, a programme which was aired on the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) radio. He was also instrumental in the formation of the long-running Tastee Talent Contest and was president of the Jamaica Federation of Musicians for many years. He received the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) from the Jamaican government in 2007.

A rundown of tributes to late Sonny Bradshaw:

"We are losing the creators and promoters of our music, arts and culture all at once. It has indeed been a very sad period for Jamaica these past few weeks as we receive news of so many of our cultural icons departing this life, one by one."

- Prime Minister Bruce Golding

"It is almost impossible to imagine modern Jamaican music without the presence of Sonny Bradshaw. He was a true musical pioneer who dedicated more than six decades of his life to ensuring that Jamaican music and especially jazz was always kept in the forefront and accessible to all.”

- Burchell Whiteman, Jamaica's High Commissioner to London

"We have suffered a great loss. His contribution to music and media is insurmountable. We shall miss him and we love him.”

– musician Dwight Pinkney

"People, all with valid credentials, have at various times been given the credit of being the dean of Jamaica's music industry. Truth be told, this master trumpeter, band leader, composer, arranger, the conductor and proprietor of the big band, is in truth the quintessential musician. He is the musician's musician."

- columnist Charles Campbell

"He inspired me with his music. He moulded some young musicians and made them into real professionals.”

- singer and musician Boris Gardner

"He lived a full and cheerful life. Sonny Bradshaw was a man who stood up for principle. That man taught me a lot of things. I was a young musician playing on the north coast, and he always tried to ensure that we got what was due to us."

- guitarist Glen Browne

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