Kathy and Terry Gillespie with guest artist Crystal Axe at the Gillespies' home outside of Vankleek Hill.

The best of both worlds

Blues on Tuesday in Vankleek Hill with Terry Gillespie is back, at least for two more months! And the local music legend has brought with him another music legend, Crystal Axe, from his other home in Jamaica.

Terry and his wife and manager Kathy, divide their time between their home just outside Vankleek Hill in summer and their cabin at Half Moon Beach in Negril in winter, where Terry is artist-in-residence and Kathy is reservation manager.

The result is a rich cross-cultural exchange that will see Jamaican artists like Axe get exposure in Canada via a three-week tour of Ontario, including Ottawa, Toronto, Niagara Falls and Northern Ontario, as well as Montreal and the Eastern Townships. The tour stops in Vankleek Hill at 7 pm. on Tuesday July 16th at the Anneken Barn on Barb Road (County Road 10). Reservations are needed.

Those familiar with Terry’s work already know that his music, an eclectic blend of blues, jazz, soul and reggae, is the result of close association with many other musicians.

“Music is the language the whole world speaks,” he says.

“I always ask, where did these songs and rhythms come from? I want to get at what’s inside a tune, not just what the tune is.”

Discovering Africa

Terry’s interest in African-based music began as a teenager from a white neighbourhood in Michigan at a music camp where he was a mediocre trumpet player. His first friend at the camp was an African-American street kid from Detroit who played the tuba and who introduced him to African rhythms. In the camp’s Listening Room, Terry heard Miles Davis for the first time and “My head went Chink!” he claims.

Terry never looked back, moving on to harmonica, guitar and vocals. From 1969 to 1980, he was the lead singer and rhythm guitar for the popular group, Heaven’s Radio before going on to form his own band.

The Gillespies’ connection with Crystal Axe goes back 25 years to when they first met her parents, both musicians who play in a mento band. Crystal, a singer and percussionist, has been performing since she was 11 years old and played the Montreal Reggae Festival 12 years ago. She also manages the No Name Bar in Negril.

Both Gillespies are passionate about promoting the many talented musicians Jamaica produces. “I apply for one artist’s visa a year,” says Kathy, “and plan a tour for them.” Unfortunately, the visa process has become harder since the US Homeland Security restrictions have made every country’s entry system more stringent. “They are prejudiced against poor people and people of colour,” she believes. Nevertheless, she assures us that we can look forward to celebrating another outstanding Jamaican musician next summer.

For more about Terry and Crystal, and about upcoming events, visit www.terrygillespie.ca

Bonnie Laing

Bonnie Laing is the author of four produced plays, the novel, River Reel, and the short story collection Marble Season. Her short fiction has been published in many Canadian literary magazines.Numerous humorous and non-fiction articles have been published in the Globe & Mail, Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and Toronto Star. She has also published two local histories and is the former Coordinator of the Creative Writing Program at Ryerson University.

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