The Hua Hin Music Scene, Part 2: Jazz Music in Hua Hin

In Thailand, Hua Hin is sometimes called “Jazz City”, principally because of the annual Hua Hin International Jazz Festival and also because of the residence in Hua Hin of King Bhumipol Adulyadej, the worlds only jazz-musician/monarch. At the time the Jazz City title was bestowed it was a bit ironic, as outside of the 3 days of the festival it was actually quite hard to find jazz anywhere in Hua Hin. Even with a flashlight!

All that has changed. Hua Hin still cannot be compared to New York, Chicago, Copenhagen or any of the major jazz centers in the West, but it does boast a lively and growing scene of local Thai and international players of jazz and jazz-flavored music.

The Hua Hin Jam Scene

The most unusual aspect of Hua Hin’s jazz music scene is the public open-jam sessions that enliven the high season. From December until early April, Hua Hin enjoys a major influx of seasonal residents from the countries of Northern Europe, particularly Scandinavia. These ‘snowbird’ include a number of professional and non-professional musicians, many of them quite skilled.

The custom has been established for certain restaurants and clubs to invite both resident and seasonal musicians to join together on a particular night of the week to enjoy with each other and to entertain the audience. These sessions have become immensely popular, to the point that people must arrive early get a seat. However, the scene is quite seasonal. When the warmer weather arrives in Europe (and Hua Hin get too hot and steamy), most of the musicians and the audience hightail it to their home countries and we have to make do here until the winter brings them all flocking back.

The granddaddy of these jam venues is Ray’s Place Restaurant, located on the corned of Sra Song Road and Amnuaysin Road, one block South of the central Night Market and one block West of Petchkasem Road. In high season, Ray’s hosts jam sessions twice a week to accomodate the crowds. Monday night is the ‘anchor’ session. When things get really busy, Thursday nights are added to catch the spillover. The Thursday night sessions are also traditionally a little more relaxed and afford a for the players to stretch out. Music begins around 8pm and goes to 11pm. In mid-season, you will want to reserve a table and/or come early.

This past year, one of the musicians from the Ray’s jams opened his own place. Chez LouLou has jams on Wednesday nights (in high season). Chez LouLou is located near the train station, next to the 7-11 store. On jam nights you can’t miss it, as the session is held in the parking area.

In Cha-Am, Baan Chang, owned by prominent Norwegian pianist Nissa Nyberget, offers shows every night. Sunday night is jam night at Baan Chang, drawing an audience and roster of musicians that is heavily Scandinavian. These seasons are very lively, with Mr. Nissa encouraging musician and listener alike. Good stuff! Baan Chang is located on Soi 8 North in Cha-Am, just off the beach.

The Jazz Train

Besides our jazz jams, Hua Hin also a very unusual excursion called the Jazz Train. At frequent (but irregular)times in the high season, Ray of Ray’s Place charters an entire car on the southbound train from Bangkok. Boarding at Hua Hin station, the train travels for about 3 hours South with a live band playing onboard. On arrival at destinations such as Thap Sakae or Ban Krut, the audience checks into a commissioned resort and enjoys an evening party on the beach with dinner and a live show that runs into the night. It’s highly unusual and a great experience. For information of the Jazz Train schedule, check with Mr. Ray at Ray’s Place.

Apart from the high-season jams, the only venue that presents nightly jazz year-round is the Coco 51 Restaurant on the beach at Soi 51. The music here is deliberately soft to serve as a backing for dinner and conversation. When pay attention, though, the playing is usually quite good. At this time (July 2010), the entertainment at Coco 51 consists of a very good female vocalist accompanied by an excellent jazz guitarist. Coco’s is also an excellent place to eat, with very good food, excellent service, and an atmospheric location overlooking the sea.

In high season, add Baan Chang in Cha-Am as a nightly venue for jazz music. See Jam Scene above.

Hua Hin has one local band, made up entirely of local Thai musicians, that plays jazz exclusively. The Hua Hin Ensemble are often heard around town and definitely are worth taking a listen to. The band consists of Khun Ob on guitar, Mr. Oat on bass, Khun Uan on drums, and Jawt on alto saxophone. In their performances, the band is frequently joined by guest artists. The Hua Hin Ensemble is also an anchor of the jams at Ray’s Place. At this low-season writing, it’s unknown where they will be seen next. But keep an eye out for them. They are very, very good.

Now, about that Jazz Festival… The Hua Hin International Jazz Festival, now approaching it’s 10th year, has had its ups and downs. At this point, the program seems to have settled in a good spot as a very credible, though not large (3 nights, 2 stages, maybe 24 bands) festival that is a credit to Hua Hin’s reputation as a sophisticated resort destination. Boasting a nicely balanced roster of major international acts, Thai jazz stalwarts such as The Infinity Band, and talented artists from other Southeast Asian countries. This year’s festival was headlined by guitar-whiz Lee Ritenour (US), Acid-Jazz pioneers Incognito (UK) and the Contemporary Jazz Super Band (Jeff Lorber, Eric Marienthal, Jimmy Haslip, and Joel Taylor. The stage locations were altered to add a 2nd beach stage at the Intercontinental Hotel, which out very well and relieved overcrowding of previous years at the Sofitel Stage. The Hua Hin International Jazz Festival is held every year in June.

Next Post: Live Music Clubs in Hua Hin


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dine riedé
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 21:34:25

    The Sunday’s jam session in Baan Chang in Cha am is not in soi 8, but in soi 9 north.


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