Reggae music has no limits. Whether he’s blending the genre with jazz, R&B or pop, Jaime Hinckson’s eloquent and passionate piano melodies soothe listeners everywhere. At the age of 17, this talented young jazz pianist, from Miami, Florida, had the honor of sharing the stage with musical icons John Legend, Shaggy, Patti LaBelle, Al Green and Air Supply at the 2006 Jamaica Jazz Festival. Now in his 20s, Jaime’s music has evolved into a unique style that appeals to a broad audience. It can be heard on his debut album (Take Flight) that features both original songs and various cover tunes of Bruno Mars, John Legend, Bob Marley and Tarrus Riley. Recently, we got a chance to talk to Jaime about his new album, career highlights, the story behind “Miss Mac” and much more.
Congrats on your excellent debut album, “Take Flight”. Why do jazz and reggae blend so well together?
When I was first asked to give a genre for my debut album, Take Flight, I specifically classified it as “reggae jazz.” Because of my Jamaican heritage, I was instilled with the rhythm of reggae music deep in my soul from a very young age. Naturally, reggae is my genesis and I will always claim it first. Nevertheless, I was introduced to jazz music in my early teens and immediately fell in love. I ended up cheating on reggae music for a couple years studying Thelonius Monk, Herbie Hancock, and Ramsey Lewis, just to name a few. Once I finally understood the theory behind jazz, I realized I had found the biggest secret to ALL music: There Are No Rules. Music is a universal language that can be blended and remixed without any limitations. Reggae and jazz happen to be my favorite sounds, but music is in the ear of the beholder.
What inspired the first single, “Miss Mac”? What’s the story behind that song?
My debut album could only be dedicated to the one person that planted the seed of music in my life. She was my grandmother, mother, aunt, friend, and lastly, my piano teacher. Joan McMorris molded me into the musician I am today and always spoke of my good fortune to come. From the age of 7, she was my ROCK; she would always stick up for me, even when I was blatantly wrong. I could never do wrong by her and no one could ever say anything bad about “her Jaime.” Her picture sits next to my piano at home and she is my everlasting inspiration to go beyond the stars with my passion for music. My first and only original on the album, “Miss Mac,” is named after her.
You included the “Moving Away Riddim” on the album. Have you ever considered creating your own “riddim” tracks for reggae artists to sing over?
Performing the music I love is only a small part of the legacy I want to leave behind. Music is a massive industry that is ever-changing and full of space for innovation. On the production and engineering side, I have been creating and mixing reggae riddims for over 10 years. My unique combination of rhythm syncopation blended with eccentric harmonies creates an exclusive sound that holds my signature. Fortunately, my music is not genre-specific which allows me to work with anything from Tarrus Riley to Taylor Swift.
Which contemporary reggae artists would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I have always admired humble artists that make a name for themselves outside of their music. Character speaks volumes about a person and I much rather collaborate with an artist that promotes positive vibrations. My role models in the reggae world would have to include Shaggy and Stephen Marley. In addition to their undeniable musical talents for arranging and performing, these reggae artists have a heart for the community and never forget their roots as their fame grows. As far as upcoming superstars, I love the vibes of Tessanne Chin and Chronixx. Tessanne’s golden voice compliments her golden heart and she has worked hard for every inch of her success. I also predict a bright future for Chronixx because of his powerful message to young and older people alike. Instead of singing about guns and violence, this 21-year old Jamaican preaches love and happiness. I hope my musical path allows me the opportunity to work with great individuals like these.
Who are your major musical influences?
Because of my wide range of musical exposure, my list of influences is endless! On top of the obvious influences of reggae artists like Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Cocoa Tea, and Toots, I grew up listening to my father’s old school vinyl records, which varied from week to week. I would hear music from The Stylistics, The Chi-Lites, Teddy Pendergrass, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye for the beginning of the month. By the 15th, it would be The Beatles, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and UB40. I also have an older sister that kept me into contemporary artists like Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, and Boyz II Men. When it comes to jazz, my favorite musicians would have to include Monty Alexander, Keith Jarrett, Erroll Garner, and my jazz teacher, Leslie Butler. I have taken elements of all of these artists’ musical styles, which have come together to mold me into the Jaime Hinckson you hear today.
What was it like playing at the 2006 Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival alongside John Legend, Shaggy, Patti LaBelle, Al Green and Air Supply?
To date, performing at the 2006 Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival is top 3 on my list of humbling experiences. To be considered among such accomplished artists at the age of 17, I was beyond elated. I was given the 5-star celebrity treatment all while having casual conversation with Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell of Air Supply. After my performance, I was interviewed by TV and radio stations from all over the world (some in languages that needed to be translated). What really put me over the top was when Patti LaBelle called me back on stage during her own performance to sing praises about “this little boy that could play a wicked piano.” The total experience will forever be etched in my memory as one of the biggest milestones in my music career.
What does reggae music mean to you?
Reggae is home. When I close my eyes on stage and get lost in the music, I am in a place that no one will ever know. Reggae music has the power to simultaneously uplift your spirit and calm down your nerves. The sound of the bass quakes the ground while you try to make sense of your dancing feet. The rim shot of the snare sends a jolt to your chest that syncs your heartbeat with the rhythm. The skank of the guitar turns your neck into rubber because you can’t help but rock to the groove. Reggae is warm. Reggae is love. Reggae is me.
Why do you think our genre is popular around the world?
Reggae music promotes peace and love which is a universal concept understood in every corner of the world. This genre does not discriminate and has been recreated by people of all colors. The pioneers of reggae music used the lyrics to tell parables that have multiple meanings depending on the listener. All in all, it is a contagious, positive movement that allows you to free your mind. Even in the worst of times, reggae music reminds you of the optimistic side of life to show that “every little thing is gonna be alright.” No matter where you’re from, no matter what the struggle, reggae music can help you get through. For that reason, reggae is forever.
Where can people see you live? Are there any upcoming shows/tours?
I am currently in the works of planning shows, both domestically and internationally. The more I spread my music across the globe, the more opportunity I have to be discovered by promoters that enjoy my music. I ask my fans to PLEASE tell your family and friends about me! After you tell them, make sure you stay on top of them to tell their family and friends. My upcoming tours and overall musical success are dependent on YOU. The best way to keep up with my calendar of events is on my website www.JaimeHinckson.com.
Is there anything else you’d like your fans to know?
To my fans, I truly appreciate each and every one of you! I make a note to respond to every comment, every email, every tweet and any other correspondence from my fans personally. So know that if you write to me, you’re getting a response directly from me (which also means, please don’t hold it against me if it takes a couple days for me to respond). You can find me on Facebook.com/JAHinckson as well as on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, follow me @JAHinckson. All this information is also on my website JaimeHinckson.com. And if you haven’t already heard it, go listen to my album! It’s free to listen on my website. If you want to buy a copy, you can do so on iTunes, Amazon and most major online music retailers. I welcome any and all feedback, PLEASE do not be shy, find me online and let me know what you think. I’m just so excited to spread my love and passion for music with the world and I know that I’m on the cusp of something big…it’s definitely my year to Take Flight.