Jerome Smith grew up around a musical family in Harlem, New York. He was heavily influenced by his father who had a lengthy career in the marine orchestra as a saxophone player before meeting the love of his life to welcome the next generation into the world. A multi-instrumentalist, mostly a bassist, little did they know what Smith would bring to Blues music.

From Harlem to Melbourne, Jerome notes that there are plenty of differences in the Blues on the other side of the globe, “In Harlem it is much less of a scene than a thing. Here people like the music, and then they associate it with other musicians and similarities. In the States it is a way of life and is happening all the time. It is so pervasive there and is part of the culture. However, I do find that the people who are into it here are passionate and committed.”

Smith has played wonderful music with Jimmy Barnes and the late Billy Thorpe. He says, “It doesn’t matter whether you are from Australia, America or Hong Kong. Blues is Blues and it is the same language everywhere. The only difference is when the music stops. I have played Ooh Poo Pah Doo in the US and when I played it with Billy Thorpe, he just loved it!”

When Smith was in a band called Bodybag, he had the chance to work with Mick Jagger. He said, “Our drummer knew Mick and asked if he knew any bass players as they had run out of them (laughs). We had a great time playing music and it just all clicked into place. It was a bit of luck and a bit of skill.”

In the New Year, Smith and his band ‘The JJ Rome Band’, are set to be part of the 2nd Annual Blues At The Briars festival, performing with members from his previous outfit Red Romino. Smith explains how the band got to where it is today, “We had a long discussion about a band name. I was adamant that I didn’t want to call the band Jerome Smith, because the family name doesn’t really retain heritage.”

Continuing on to his band mates Smith says, “I am playing with Mark Wells, Roger McLaughlan and Jeff Consi. I have known these guys for a long time. I just felt like we were all seeing the same picture when playing music in the same room together. I know that the music is going to be good just by the conversation we are having. After that feeling I got with those guys, I immediately started playing with them. They make me look good!”

As a resident of the area now, Smith is excited to be a part of the upcoming festival. He explains, “I have not played around the Peninsula for a long time. I have played at a bunch of different places around the bay and Frankston, but I am really looking forward to this one. We are going to have a great time and make this year better than the first festival for sure!”

The JJ Rome Band play alongside The Bondi Cigars, Lloyd Spiegel and more on Saturday February 1 at the Briars Historic Homestead, Mount Martha. Tickets are available from www.bluesatthebriars.com

ALEX CHISHOLM

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