The Star (Nairobi)

15 November 2012

Kenya: Thrilling Jazz By the Park

Though still a fairly new concept, Jazz Night at Ole Sereni is quickly making a name for itself. Ole Sereni Hotel in itself is beautifully designed and in the evenings when the poolside is lit up and bar draped with brilliant white cloth against a bluish, almost fluorescent background.

Draped similarly is the stage where jazz maestro Hellon plays every Tuesday night with his band. It's all very romantic and the servers look dapper in retro black or white fedoras for that added touch of old school glamour.

Harmony Lights do a spectacular job of lighting up the place. The bar area especially has an enchanted forest feel to it only instead greens and blues there's dazzling white.

Of the musical itself, a cocktail of different sounds but of course all played in the jazz melody. The band started off with slow melodies but gradually transitioned to a peppy tempo.

When the band played Msenangu, the coastal sound was in tune to the pilau meal which tasted a lot like the exquisite pilau my childhood neighbours used to make for dinner.

Incidentally, my neighbours were from the coast too, therefore the pilau at Ole Sereni was a great reminder of home. Sunshine by Joe was one of the songs played by the band at the onset and this went down quite well with my first cocktail, a 'Strawbaileys' that tasted of crushed strawberries, Baileys liqueur and ice-cream - at Sh500 per cocktail, it was heaven on earth!

A cocktail that still tastes good three or four glasses down the line and is most likely a big hit with the ladies for its sweetness. For those that prefer something less 'girly', the 'Scottish Saltire' is great choice with a sharp but pleasant tang that went down well with the grilled fish charred just right for that added bit of flavour.

This cocktail is made with Johnny Walker Black Label, bitters, lime, and Stoney soda. It's the kind of drink to have especially on a Friday night when you've got plenty time to kill the next day.

All the cocktails were served by Eli, a charming mixologist who looked dashing in his fedora and was rather easy on the eye. He made us yet another cocktail called 'Berry Spice' which tasted a lot like a strawberry mojito and was certainly much stronger than the 'Strawbaileys'.

Hellon and his band went on to play Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and then Take 5 by Dave Bruebeck quartet, with such smooth transitions between each tune it was difficult to tell where one ended and the other began.

All three melodies had such energy, enough to inspire one to get up and dance. In fact, a man dressed in a beige three-piece suit, double breasted and with horn-rimmed glasses reminiscent of Barack Obama Snr, got up to dance and did so quite well so much so that he added to lively night time ambiance of Jazz by the Park sponsored in partnership by East African Breweries Limited.

To cap the night, one of the band members played Michael Jackson's Human Nature on the violin an the band then played Lambamba by Ritchie Valens, Careless Whisper by George Micheal and A Whole New World by Paebo Bryson and Regina Belle. Ole Sereni's Jazz by the Park is definitely worth a shot and till further notice, entry is free.

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