The best-known of all Benjamin’s light-music pieces, Jamaican Rumba
was based on a tune he heard in the West Indies while examining there for the RCM. First composed for two pianos in 1937, as the second of Two Jamaican Pieces
, it was arranged for many combinations. The original version was in fact composed in a single morning for two of Benjamin’s students, Valerie and Joan Trimble, who were about to give their first recital. The composer made a violin-and-piano version, dedicated to Jascha Heifetz; and this was in turn arranged for the viola by William Primrose and published in 1954. The high-spirited melodic and rhythmic confection of the piece (Howells’s ‘enchanting brevity’) answered to a current vogue for South American and Caribbean idioms created by American jazz and popular music of the 1930s and 1940s.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2014