Jazz Music in Hua Hin

In Thailand, Hua Hin is sometimes called “The Jazz City”, principally because of the annual Hua Hin International Jazz Festival and also because of the residence of King Bhumipol Adulyadej, the worlds only jazz musician-monarch. When the Jazz City title was bestowed nine years ago it was a bit ironic, as outside of the 3 days of the festival it was virtually impossible to find any form of jazz performance 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.

Clubs

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 you 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 a fine 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.

Bands

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. [You can book The Hua Hin Ensemble for your club, party, or special event by contacting Mr. Ob at +66(0)89 548 6246. Tell them you saw it in The Guide :-)]

Festivals

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.

Hearing and Buying Jazz Recordings in Hua Hin

How about jazz recordings? The whole history of jazz is captured in the many hundreds of historic recordings by all the greats down through the years. So, where can you go in Hua Hin for records by the likes of Sonny Rollins, Art Tatum, or Ahmad Jamal? You won’t find much of this in the Night Market stalls, Market Village, or the Thai music shops

Luckily, once again our little town is blessed by resources beyond its size. There are two small, but very nice shops where you can go to browse (and purchase) records by the many greats of jazz. Very nicely, each is a place where you can relax and enjoy good conversation and/or a cup of coffee.

First, there is the Blue Note Coffee at 144/2 Chomsin Road (Chomsin is the road that heads from the more northerly of our two downtown traffic lights). From Petchkasem Rd. turn towards the beach and look for the Blue Note in the middle of the first block, on the left. Formerly called Cups & Comp, the Blue Note is the baby of Mr. Wong, a Thai entrepreneur who has been operating internet cafes and computer services here for a number of years. He’s also a sincere lover of jazz and of old vinyl records, which he has been buying and selling on the Internet for quite a while. He’s combined his passions in the Blue Note, a coffee shop and internet cafe with a music focus.

When you enter the Blue Note, you’ll see a display of old-style vinyl records right in front of you. To the right is a turntable and speakers. That’s correct, Blue Note deals only with vinyl records, Mr. Wong being among those who do not feel that CDs and DVDs equal the warmth and character of the original medium. If the owner himself is in the house, there will almost certainly be music filling the air. If he’s not on hand, you might have to ask the staff (politely) before listening. The records are for sale (mostly), and if you have a turntable in your home system, you can stock up. It’s a very good selection!

Just off of Naebkehardt Road on Soi 56 is a little book and music shop called Rhythm & Books, the brainchild of Mr. Bhuna, a Thai gentleman of international extraction and orientation. Rhythm & Books (or ‘R&B’) is the friendliest book and music store in town, with a comfortable table and chairs where you can relax and enjoy music, books, coffee, photos and art on the walls, and wonderful conversation with Bhuna (He loves a good conversation and speaks English extremely well) and other customers. Fro music, R&B stocks both CDs and vinyl records. The selections is not huge, but extremely tasty. The owner loves to listen, so don’t hesitate to ask to play any record you find there. The book selection is eclectic, in both Thai and English, with mostly the kinds of books you won’t find in any other bookstore in town. R&B is a lovely place to while away the time, and you can bring home a lot of great listening and reading.

To find Rhythm & Books, proceed North on Naebkehardt (That’s the road that parallels Petchkasem starting at the Clock Tower and ending by the King’s Palace). After passing the large Soi 51 (Soi Coco’s), starting looking for the sign to Rhythm & Books at Soi 56. Turn into the soi and R&B is in the 2nd shophouse on the left. Park and go in. R&B is open every day except Tuesday and Wednesday, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. It’s a one-man show, so occasionally the owner has to keep an appointment elsewhere. If you find the shope closed, well, just come back. You’ll be very happy that you did!

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 18:09:18

    Hello,
    Greetings from Six Senses!
    I’m looking for a jazz band few night a month, maybe you can help me. I will contact Mr Ob for sure, but if you have other band in mind, I will be please to contact them or going to Hua Hin to see them.
    I look forward to hear from you
    Best regards
    John

    Reply

    • The Hua Hin Arts Guide
      Apr 20, 2011 @ 17:26:44

      Hi John. Thanks. At this point, the only band for actual jazz (that’s on the loose, anyway) is Ob’s. (We could do much worse). There are some combos at places like Intercontinental and Softel, but as far as I know they are tied to their contracts. If it’s a few days a month, you could consider bringing someone in from Bangkok.

      Reply

  2. pete
    Nov 08, 2012 @ 12:00:52

    Hi anyone know where i can get turntable stereo record player repaired in hua hin thanks for time regards pete

    Reply

    • The Hua Hin Arts Guide
      Nov 08, 2012 @ 13:39:21

      Go to Rhythm & Books shop at 4/56 Naebkehardt Road (Soi 56 just off Naebkehardt) and talk to Bhanu.
      He’s vinyl freak and if anyone knows, he will.
      If it’s closed, go back again. He keeps his own hours, but it’s a great place.

      Gary

      Reply

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