Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. March 2015 1
J AO TG2 016
2 Jazz in the Islands
WHAT’S JAZZ INSIDE
Issue #2. Dec 2015
Welcome All We’re back after a pause. This second edition coincides with the launch of trumpeter Etienne Charles’ new Christmas album in Trinidad. Creole Christmas is his fifth album and points to the kind of output needed for this genre to have legs in the world. In the interim, there has been a smattering of new releases. Jazz in the Islands talks to Rudy Smith to get a handle on his long career as a recording artist playing jazz on the steelpan. A side-by-side commentary of St. Lucia’s and Tobago’s jazz events is noted. Here’s looking to number three. Nigel A. Campbell Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Departments 2 First Look
A little of this and that; Things to do.
14 Etienne Charles moves beyond his creole soul. The award winning trumpeter has secured a place for himself in the jazz fraternity here in the Caribbean and in the world with a sound that has gone beyond. 9 Rudy ‘Two Left’ Smith ‘Two Left” and the invasion of Europe with jazz and steelpan. An overview with this pioneering musician and recording artist.
ETIENNE CHARLES presents
The Concert and Album Celebration SUN, NOV 29 • 6:00 PM • QUEEN’S HALL
Jazz in Trinidad and Tobago: An Improvised Experience in the Islands.
PHOTO: Hollis King /Jacques Schwarz-Bart / 11 Entertainment
20 Pan Jazz Picnic 22 Reviews 23 Recording Roundup 24 Lagniappe
What’s in a Name? Towards a definition of Calypso Jazz
CD/Download Links 2 3 4 7, 15 9-11
Chantal Esdelle Nicholas Brancker, NEWA Jacques Schwarz-Bart Etienne Charles Rudy Smith
5 Creole Christmas Souvenir Programme. 29 November 2015, Trinidad. The concert and album celebration featuring jazz and folk musicans from around the globe. NEW ALBUM AVAILABLE
12 A Tale of Two Island Jazz Cities: Pigeon Island, Saint Lucia and Pigeon Point, Tobago. Side by side, we listen.
4 Brother Jacques Vodou, Gwo Ka and creole spirits from Guadeloupe. Saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart lays out his plans for recharting his music in the context of the Caribbean where he lives in his spirit.
Scan the QR codes below the album to connect to the online digital marketplace. Jett Samm Publishing 37 Newbury Hill Ext., Glencoe, Trinidad and Tobago www.jettsamm.com +1 868 366 6104
Advertising inquiries 868 366 6104, email@example.com Editor and Manager Nigel A. Campbell Art Direction and Design NiCam Graphics Editorial and Advertising Assistant Amanda Carr Contributors Laura Dowrich-Phillips, Michael Low Chew Tung, Tony Bell, Harold Homer II. Jazz in the Islands is published periodically by Jett Samm Publishing. All material © 2015, Jett Samm Publishing, except where noted, and may not be reprinted without permission. NOT FOR RESALE. Printed in Trinidad and Tobago by Caribbean Print Technologies. Available online at jazz.tt
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 1
A little of this and that, things to do. Chantal Esdelle’s Ethnic Jazz life a unique way in which we engage with our own special Caribbean creativity and cultural output. She, an acolyte of musical giants like Earl Rodney, Fortunia Ruiz, Clive Bradley and Andre Tanker, established her brand after returning from Berklee College of Music in Boston in the 1990s out of necessity; a necessity to draw on the regional gifts that shape us as Caribbean people, much like her musical heroes did before. Recognising that we exist in a throwaway culture, “hot today, forgotten tomorrow,” Esdelle persists in reengaging with ideas that on the surface are economically fallow, but sustain the majesty of our music that in recent times have become fodder for creative entrepreneurs (read: foreigners) to exploit to wider markets. Recordings, jazz radio programming, and concert performances at venues large and small throughout the Caribbean have placed Esdelle ahead of many others locally. She continues a trend of “against all odds” chauvinism that ignores the latent cultural biases of this society that avoids local innovation, and pursues, outside of the recognised business models, with a jazz salon that speaks more eloquently to who we are than the canned sounds and faux images of some publicist’s idea of Caribbean cool.
The Ethnic Jazz Club’s 2015-2016 Calendar The Ethnic Jazz Club (EJC) continues with its 15th season of producing recordings, radio programmes, jazz concerts, hosting visiting artists and administering jazz education programmes. The Jazz Studio, the EJC’s base in Port of Spain will host series featuring steelpan jazz and reinterpretations of the local canon of Andre Tanker arranged with the ethos of
2 Jazz in the Islands
Chantal Esdelle’s trademark ethnic jazz. In 2016, the EJC will be tackling the music of Ella Andall, chantuelle and Orisha songstress, continuing the tradition of exploiting local copyrights in live performance. For more information, scan the QR code.
MOYENNE New Hope (Ethnic Jazz Club, 2000) “The debut of ethnic jazz specialist Chantal Esdelle and her group, Moyenne is auspicious for many reasons. As a leader of a new sub-genre, it signifies our native potential.” —Jazz in the Islands
Available at chantalesdelle
CHANTAL ESDELLE & MOYENNE Imbizo Moyenne (Ethnic Jazz Club, 2013) “That leap of faith is always the surprise that continues to sustain jazz music and its variations globally. This music will not disappear, and neither should our desire to own it.” —T&T Guardian
Available at chantalesdelle
PHOTO: CHANTAL ESDELLE
Chantal Esdelle displays a tenacity that many other promoters, save musicians, in these islands would not display. With her concerts in the 15th year of her Ethnic Jazz Club series, she has forged a unique identity in Trinidad and Tobago as being one of, if not the only female band leader who is a renowned pianist and more importantly, she has endured as a promoter of an aesthetic that Caribbean people must embrace for fear of losing altogether to interlopers. Beyond the facsimile of an enthusiastic audience engaged in music appreciation, one is awed by the idea of an Esdelleproduced performance in the context of myriad concert options at the year end. The term “ethnic”—in jazz or otherwise—has connotations that veer from “traditional” to “tribal” and suggest that the gloss of showpiece productions has been replaced by a kind of musical rawness that local audiences seem to avoid. In her concerts, nothing can be further from the truth. Esdelle noted that the term “ethnic jazz” grew out of a conversation with Trinidadbased cultural critic Simon Lee that spoke to
FIRST LOOK Things to do! THU DEC 17 - 20
THU JAN 21 - 24
NICHOLAS BRANCKER Touching Bass (Nicholas Brancker, 2014)
PHOTO: Haiti Jazz Foundation / nstituto Cubano de la Música / BEQUIA TOURISM
“Touching Bass is a huge winner for a myriad of reasons...An exotic collection of soundscapes that attack both the cerebral and visceral soul without warning.” —Bop-n-Jazz
The 31st anniversary of the International Jazz Festival of Havana-Jazz Plaza. 4 days of Cuban jazz on the Plaza. From Thursday December 17, 2015. www.decubajazz.cult.cu
Arturo Tappin is back to headline the Bequia Mount Gay Music Fest 2016. 4 nights from Thursday January 21, 2016. Bequia, SVG. www.bequiatourism.com/ bequiamusicfest/
SAT JAN 23 - 30
SAT MAR 12
J AO TG2 016
10th anniversary of the International Jazz Festival of Portau-Prince! 8 days from Saturday January 23, 2016. Port-au-Prince, Haiti. US$20.00-$76.00 www.papjazzhaiti.org
Come for the lime...discover the music! 14th edition of the biggest Caribbean jazz fest in these islands. Saturday, March 12, 2016. St Joseph, Trinidad. TT$300.00 www.jaotg.com
Available at iTunes.com
NEWA NEWA (Thunder Dome Sounds, 2001) “The self entitled album, features the Smooth Jazz, with all the complexity needed to spark interest and delight...there is something there for everyone.” —Thunder Dome Sounds
Available at CDBaby.com
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 3
Vodou, Gwo Ka, and Creole Spirits from Guadeloupe “Guadeloupean tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart, as a child heard Haitian vodou ritual songs played by his mother and celebrated author, Simone Schwarz-Bart, as a soundtrack to their life of literary idyll in the Caribbean.”
4 Jazz in the Islands
JACQUES SCHWARZ-BART Jazz Racine Haïti (Motéma Music, 2014) “African-Caribbean grooves that drive this music beyond spirituality achieve a synergy where modern jazz and vodou are one.” —Caribbean Beat
lifted by the powerful spirituality of vodou music. The project was finally recorded and released in January 2014. For many years, Jacques and Cuban pianist Omar Sosa have been discussing the creation of a common project, a symbiotic meeting of Haitian and Cuban spiritual traditions, enmeshed in the language of modern jazz. They finally gathered on the same stage in late 2014 with an immediate complicity, almost frighteningly energetic and luminous. A residence in Guadeloupe followed in early 2015, where both leaders brought their respective trios. The Creole Spirits project is now on track, with concerts, a new CD to come, and a high quality documentary for TV or film festivals. Since the release of Jazz Racine Haïti, Jacques has become an ambassador for a school of modern Jazz rooted in Vodou music. Jacque Schwarz-Bart’s impressionistic writing, powerful tone, and wide-ranging language—both lyrical and angular—have fueled a growing presence on the world stage. His vision has inspired an entire generation of young jazzmen infusing their jazz expression with their native influences.
Available at iTunes.com
JACQUES SCHWARZ-BART Soné Ka-La (Universal Music France, 2007) “Soné Ka-La, which combines infectious tunes, delicious percussion and sonorous vocals with a sense of musical well being, is a world jazz release that puts him in a different league.” —The Guardian
Available at iTunes.com
PHOTO: JACQUES SCHWARZ-BART
So begins a previous review of Jacques Schwarz-Bart’s recent album, Jazz Racine Haïti. Musicologist Alan Leeds noted that because of the childhood idyll, “his own music was destined to be special. His love for jazz and soul produced some noteworthy excursions into both fields but for Jacques something was missing. What was missing was his sense of self.” He was seemingly destined to a career as a statesman. But another path had been shaping up at the same time: a path of music and mysticism. Jacques discovered African mysticism through Gwo Ka music. The traditional rural musical performances called Lewoz took place at night in the darkness of the country side in sugar cane fields, where rhythms and chants emote a spiritual call. After playing alongside such luminaries as Roy Hargrove, Danilo Perez, and Chucho Valdes, Jacques finally decided to follow his own vision as a band leader. He then left Roy Hargrove’s band in 2005 and finalized his Gwoka Jazz Project, gathering some faithful and talented musicians such as Sonny Troupé, Olivier Juste and Milan Milanovic. Jacques and his Gwoka Project recorded two albums for Universal, Soné Ka La and Abyss, which built his current career as an internationally acclaimed jazz band leader. In 2012, Jacques created a project that synergizes modern jazz and ritual vodou music from Haiti: Jazz Racine Haïti. It featured two Vodou priests: the great singer Errol Josué, and percussionist Gaston Bonga, as well as some of the finest young jazz musicians. While remaining a jazz project, the music is
ETIENNE CHARLES presents
The Concert and Album Celebration SUN, NOV 29 • 6:00 PM • QUEEN’S HALL NEW ALBUM AVAILABLE
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 5
* Song order or selection subject to change.
...there 1. Santa Claus is coming to town (John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie) 2. Chocolate (Spanish Dance) from “The Nutcracker” (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky) 3. DANCE OF THE Sugar Plum Fairy from “The Nutcracker” (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky) 4. Go Tell it On the Mountain (Compiled by John Wesley Work, Jr.) 5. This Christmas (Donny Hathaway [as “Donny Pitts”] and Nadine McKinnor) — intermission —
...here 6. Roses of Caracas Waltz (Lionel Belasco) 7. Juliana (Lionel Belasco) 8. Tell Santa Claus (Christopher Niles) 9. I’ll be home for Christmas (Walter Kent and Kim Gannon) 10. Make a friend for Christmas (Willard Harris) 11. Father Christmas (Theophilus Philip) 12. Christmas is Yours, Christmas is Mine (Willard Harris)
6 Jazz in the Islands
Creole Christmas returns the Derek Walcott in his Nobel lecture back in 1992 posited a view of how tourists see the Caribbean: “Winter adds depth and darkness to life and literature and in the unending summer of the tropics not even poverty or poetry…seems capable of being profound because the nature around it is so exultant, so resolutely ecstatic, like its music. A culture based on joy is bound to be shallow.” The tourist gaze has been described by some as the dominant way of observing or making sense of the world. Etienne Charles clearly is not going in that direction. In his movements around the world, Charles has been a leader in situating the “native gaze” to his music by channelling the “new colours, new textures, and new motifs” of his creole soul, his Caribbean spirit into a collaboration with and celebration of the New World music called jazz. Tonight, we celebrate the reflection and return of the native gaze to local audiences in need of an antidote to artificial snow. Charles has journeyed back home with his band of Yankees (no pejorative meaning implied) to do that necessary collaboration with island favourites, collaborations of culture, language, ethos that spark an improvisation of mood, spirit and music. The cuatro, the signifier of parang, a music we call our own, in spite of its origins in Bolívar’s land, is in the hands of virtuosos. Jorge Glem and Robert Munro, a Venezuelan
native gaze to local audiences and a Trinidadian, have equally mastered the instrument within their respective home countries. Charles has utilised their skills to re-imagine Tchaikovsky’s music from the Christmas-themed ballet, “The Nutcracker”. The strum and ‘thrang’ of the cuatro strings (a Walcott joke on Sturm und Drang), the onomatopoeic sounds of plucked nylon transform a Russian ballet into a parang jam. The obvious tension inherent in transcribing Russian melodies into a sound we know as our own is eased by the benevolence of the musicians on the album Creole Christmas, and on the stage. Audiences can genuflect at the genius of David ‘Happy Williams, Clarita Rivas and Stanley Roach. The double-bass doubling as box bass, the shac shac, the creole violin; the rhythm and melody of the Christmas lavway are given significance. Charles has made sure of that. Our music is on the same page as the tunes for ballerinas and hot gospellers. “Go Tell It On The Mountain” is a shared experience by us all as we give joy to the Nativity. “This Christmas” bubbles with the excitement of a sing-along of epic proportions. We like it so. Relator is a modern Caribbean troubadour. Not the ancient wandering minstrel, but a working calypsonian who in addition to singing about food prices, celebrates in original song a meaning of Christmas that is closer to our shared existence in these hot latitudes.
A French Antillean can juxtapose musically with a Venezuelan and a Trinidadian holding down the bottom can keep the beat with his American counterpart. Charles’ view of the creole soul, so aptly reflected in his last album of the same name, encompasses wider spaces for our collective interactions. The creole canon of seasonal songs are replete with references to the idea that this is a time not for warm woollen mittens and sleigh rides, but for the celebration of our favourite things. Friendship, local humour, picong and scandal, sharing and caring, and the absence of a kind of gaudy materiality are given equal time with the truer meaning of Christmas. The native gaze is turned inwards as we see and hear the result of a confident musician challenging notions, challenging structures, challenging ourselves to see and hear beyond the boundary. The Caribbean, the “other America” is his homeland, despite him having a US zip code, and this journey home, beyond metaphors, is to guarantee that the illimitable influences here are ultimately reflected there. Etienne Charles has mined the depths of our collective culture and crafted a tribute with the influence that the “unending summer of the tropics” has on a whole range of songs from the holiday songbook. He came back home because he had to. To be that secure and that confident in the idea of a Creole Christmas celebration, a return was inevitable.
ETIENNE CHARLES Creole Christmas (Culture Shock Music, 2015) “Christmas albums are described in the music industry as sure fire moneymakers as they can be re-cycled annually to keep newer fans in the spirit. Etienne Charles, that creole soul as personified on his last album has crafted a New World reflection of the idea of Christmas and what the season of giving looks like from the perspective of that kind of fortunate traveller. On Creole Christmas, Charles re-imagines the European, American and Caribbean holiday songbooks with a cast of jazz and folk musicians from around the globe. Tchaikovsky’s “Dance o f t h e S u g a r P l u m F a i r y ” and “Chocolate (Spanish Dance)” from the ballet, “The Nutcracker” are transformed into a jazz ensemble improv workout and a parang jam respectively. Calypsonian, Relator is placed in the context of live horns to recast his classics, “Make a New Friend For Christmas”, and “Christmas is Yours” as potent responses to the canned sonic background music for mall sho p p ers. A su re fi r e cl as s i c has arrived to balance the creole influence of here with the temperate seductions of there.” —Jazz in the Islands Available at etiennecharles.com
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 7
Thank You! The producers of ETIENNE CHARLES presents Creole Christmas would like to thank and acknowledge the following persons and organisations for their commitment and effort to make this concert celebration a reality. MUSICIANS AND SINGERS: Etienne Charles (trumpet, percussion), David ‘Happy’ Williams (bass), Jorge Glem, (cuatro) Jacques Schwarz-Bart (tenor sax), Alex Wintz (guitar), McClenty Hunter Jr. (drums), Godwin Louis (alto sax), Victor Gould (piano). AND SPECIAL GUESTS: Relator, Robert Munro, Clarita Rivas, Stanley Roach, Roger George. ADMINISTRATION AND HOSPITALITY: Marielle Forbes HOUSE MANAGER: Malene Joseph PRODUCTION MANAGER: Samuel Rollins Jr. LIGHTING DESIGN: Celia Wells FRONT OF HOUSE ENGINEER: Samuel Rollins Jr. STAGE MONITOR ENGINEER: Robin Foster STAGE MANAGEMENT: Thinkstage Entertainment Ltd., Michelle Roach, Neil Bernard, Gabriella Gooding, Anthony Gonzales. QUEEN’S HALL: Colleen Cameron, Amelia Samai-Nicome, Curtis Bachan, Lynette Ling, Alicia Barrington, and the staff at the Box Office, back stage, technical, and ushers. Thank you to those individuals who assisted in-kind and supported in sprit: TriniDan, Afra, Jean-Marc, Culture Shock Music, Birdsong, Dennis Phillip, the Folks, and you the patrons who came to be part of this celebration.
8 Jazz in the Islands
Rudy ‘Two Left’ Smith An appreciation of a steelpan jazz pioneer who opened the instrument in Europe as a solo lead
RUDY SMITH QUARTET and others Pan-Jazz Improvisations (Sanch Electronix, 1998)
PHOTO: Rudy Smith
“Pan-Jazz Improvisations is the ultimate expression of some of the most musical interpretations of two virtuoso sons of Trinidad and Tobago, Rudy Smith and Annise Hadeed. —Sanch
A number of Caribbean biographies of artists, politicians, and thinkers from the pre-Independence era focus on those subjects as migrating to work, to make themselves better, to escape a “cascade of high mediocrity.” By bettering themselves, they reflect those characteristics that are described as the best of what we have. “To make it, we have to go there. Here is too small for thought, for inspiration, for commerce.” Rudy “Two Left” Smith went there, and sustained a career and a life that does reflect the best at what we have, because he was a pioneer that is the best of what we have. With a professional career spanning more that five decades, Smith put the steelpan front and centre in a jazz ensemble, and conquered a space that commercially was able to reward that innovation. All else, in this music where jazz and pan interact, must listen to his musical voice for direction, for inspiration, for commercial example. Our biography of Smith has to start at the beginning: He was born in Woodbrook, a major Port of Spain environ, and moved to Methuen Street, Cobo Town. He lived through the creation and evolution of the steelpan by youth in the city and wider space in the 1940s in Trinidad. Gaza Strip, Port of
Spain was a stomping ground for early group play. Work was the impetus. By1962, he was invited as part of Merrymakers (which came out of Red Army) to play on US Bases in Germany, on a 6 month contract. Migration was as a result of working. He was good. He moved with the spread of steelpan. The agent booked Europe: Spain and Italy. He would live there in the beginning. Immigration was easier at that time. Passports were not Trinidad and Tobago issued as yet, but British Commonwealth issue. In 1964, bebop was the music he was moving towards in earnest. It was an original sound on the pan. He formed the Modern Sound Quartet in Málaga, Spain, went to Mallroca, then ultimately settled down in Sweden in 1968. He was not alone in choosing
Available at iTunes.com
RUDY SMITH QUARTET Time To Move On (Storyville, 1999) “On this album with his quartet, on Storyville Records, Rudy Smith cements the idea that the steelpan can be a formidable lead voice for be-bop standards and jazz in general.” —Jazz in the Islands
Available at iTunes.com
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 9
RUDY SMITH QUARTET Still Around (Re-issue) (EM Records, 2007) “The album Still Around is the first record Rudy Smith made under his own name, and it is considered a classic and one of his best.” —RushHour.nl
Available at EM Records
MODERN SOUND QUINTET Otinku (Re-issue) (Em Records, 2007) “This album has a mix of modal jazz, funk, some Trinidad sounds, and a bit of high life. Good good stuff!.” —Runtrunt
Available at Amazon.com
10 Jazz in the Islands
Scandinavia: Rupert Clemendore was in Sweden since 1963. In Sweden in the 1960s: “When Don Cherry arrived in Sweden, (in 1960s) it was a country where jazz had been overtaken by pop music and where there was growing a new strong yearning for music that was not content with what had been. There were outstanding jazz musicians around such as Bernt Rosengren who was at the height of his powers. It was a time when the established international rhythmic music was not content with originating from American and British sources but became global.” Smith was part of this milieu. Many musicians from Caribbean were in Sweden then, among them Vin Cardinal, a drummer from south. There was a lot work. He was a traveller now. He played in Morocco 1960, Nigeria in 1970s, Casablanca, Tangiers, South Africa. An offer to play Australia came to him, but it was “too far.” All this time, he was playing and absorbing, and soon would begin recording. The Modern Sound Quintet, by now, would record Otinku in 1971 in Sweden. Polish music critic Tom Sekowski reviewed this seminal album and his follow-up Still Around, with his newly formed quartet: “Rudy Smith should not be an odd name to anyone enamoured by the sound of the steel pan. Forming the Modern Sound Quartet in Spain in 1964, Smith became famous for playing in a jazz band that featured a steel pan drummer. Though he had a good following of fans, there was a large contingent of jazz stalwarts who refused to take his music seriously as they found his chosen instrument to be too odd. By 1968, Smith moved to Sweden
where he formed a new version of the Modern Sound Quintet. Featuring pianist John Roachford [from Barbados], bassist Sigfrid Macintosh [from Suriname], drummer George Allyn [from Trinidad], conga player Kofi Ayivor [from Ghana] and the leader on steel drums, the band had developed a unique sound that could not be mistaken for anyone else at the time. Recorded in 1971, “Otinku” saw the fully realized sound of the band. The quintet rocked, they swung solid but most of all, they enlightened those in close proximity. Though much of this music could pass for standard be-bop jazz fare, the selection in the percussive department makes it stand out worlds apart from anything that has transpired before its release. Smith’s steel drums spread a gyrating, echo-filled effect to the other five members of his quintet. Rochford is an accomplished enough pianist, though he tends to play it straight when propositioned by Smith’s melodic lines. Only conga master Kofi Ayivor and drummer George Allyn take the call and carry the music to higher dimensions. With their abundantly spirited, rumbling concoction of heated interplay, they’re able to come up with a mixture of groovebased rhythms. While laid-back in nature, the music of Rudy Smith was nothing but a ride into pure adventure.” Smith relocated to Denmark in 1986 where he still lives. The music scene in Sweden got boring, he noted, so the move to Denmark was inevitable for a
working musician looking to innovate and interface with an eager public. Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster were based in Denmark so the jazz scene was jumping. The jazzz scene in Denmark is still happening but diminished today. Tom Sekowski continues his evaluation of Smith’s output: “After a failed attempt with new musical forms with his Modern Sound Corporation, Rudy Smith broke up the band in 1980 and moved to Denmark. In 1983, he formed the Rudy Smith Quartet, which further showcased the talents of this Trinidadian steel plan legend. In asking pianist Ole Matthiessen to join, along with bassist Niels Prastholm and drummer Gilbert Matthews, Smith actually formed the very first band under his own name. The music here is graceful, without crossing any thresholds into mundane territories. Smith’s composition “Ursia” takes on Arabic music and Flamenco in one large swoop. With heavyhanded motifs, Smith even allows himself to take a breather a plays subtle steel drum passage, while Pe-We accompanies the band on a haunting soprano sax excursion. Most energetic number is a Johnny Dyani original. Entitled “Blues for Bradick”, the number sees the quartet take on a sped-up, lively stance of grooveoriented, post-bop concoctions. Even Matthiessen sounds exuberantly alive on the ivories for this number. Album’s closing number “El Vito” [penned by Spanish saxophonist Pedro Iturralde] sees Costa Apetrea join the quartet on acoustic guitar. His flamenco styling brings out another dimension to the band altogether. It’s here all members come together as one and join powers under Smith’s leadership. With a large dose of lively be-bop, masterful conversation, as seen by these two re-issues, Rudy Smith’s bands were always high on the creative scale, with talent to spare.” From that point on, Smith was guiding
the sound and aesthetic of steelpan in Europe and Scandinavia in particular. Smith says: “Going to Europe, straight ahead is what they want. The circles I plays in, pan jazz isn’t what is called jazz. Jazz is bebop. My quartet and quintet are all Scandinavians, Miles Davis alumni among them.” Steelpan player is his definition of his job. “Pannist as a word has been reduced by too much people using it.” This is a deserved conceit from a man who has done it all. He tunes his own pans. Copenhagen Steelband was tuned by him. In Trinidad, he arranged steelbands for Panorama, “orchestrated improvisation” he calls it—Valley Harps (1980s), Sun Valley (1990s), Birdsong (2000s, for 9 years)—and he has recorded a few CDs on high end recorder Sanch Electronix label. He still records and plays all over the world: “I don’t do shows, I do concerts.” Eastern Europe is a new market for his skill. A body of recorded work that reflects the best of what we have is a legacy not to be ignored. Swedish musicologist Krister Malm executive produced a retrospective of Smith’s work, What pan did for me. Malm noted: “Double alto pan player Rudy Smith has started a new phase in the story of pan. And not only in the story of the pan but in the story of Afro-American music. Rudy Smith has married the most important AfroCaribbean invention in the field of musical instruments, the steelpan, to the most important Afro-American musical tradition, the jazz. And more than that. He has developed a solo style of the steelpan which has not been heard before. His technique is dazzling. But it is not a question of empty virtuosity. Rudy Smith´s playing is marked by the same astonishing inventiveness that has created the steelpan.” Smith is a little more circumspect. He says, “pan pays the mortgage. That’s what pan did for me!” It’s a mortgage a nation may not be able to repay easily.
RUDY SMITH What pan did for me (Caprice Records, 2015)
“Rudy Smith is a pioneering musician who, in the early 1970s, put the steelpan front and centre in jazz recordings before just about anybody else, and has never looked back since. A legend in this native Trinidad, and living in Denmark for many years now, Smith on this compilation album showcases the instrument as a subtle lead voice. Calypso, jazz and steel have forged music for listening. Veering towards bebop as the signifier of jazz, Smith used the steelpan to great acclaim in Scandinavia and throughout Europe, after migrating there in the 1960s. The answer to the question implied in the album’s title, What pan did for me, is that it provided a tool for a long music career for Smith and placed the instrument into the consciousness of European audiences of jazz, World music and popular music as more than an accompaniment for island ditties. This career-spanning collection is a great indication of his worth.” —Jazz in the Islands
Available at iTunes.com
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 11
A Tale of Two Island Jazz Cities Problems were also dealt with swiftly. On the Friday night, traffic leaving Pigeon Island after the show was horrific. Tourist board officials apologised via the media the next day, saying there was a breakdown in traffic management and promised it would not occur again. They stayed true to their promise. They even acted swiftly to address media complaints about the tent set up for interviews which was too close to the side stage and so made it difficult for us to conduct interviews. By the second night the tent was moved to the artistes’ dressing area where we conducted interviews without the musical din. On paper, the line up for the St Lucia Jazz Festival was not overly impressive. Flo Rida, Robin Thicke, It struck me on the third and final allow the artistes to interact fully with Jon Secada and Krosfyah shared top night of the St Lucia Jazz festival. After the audience as some of them did. billing with Chrisette Michele, Arturo three days of running between stage The St Lucia Tourist Board has been Tappin, Beres Hammond and Jimmy front and the interview tent set up for staging this festival for 24 years and it Cliff. The performances were, however, media interviews with the artistes, I was evident that they have gathered thoroughly entertaining and the largely realised there was no VIP section. enough expertise over the years to St Lucian crowd lapped it all up. Flo Unlike Trinidad and Tobago, where ensure the event flowed smoothly. Rida and Thicke in particular appealed one would be hard pressed to find an This is essential as the festival is the to the younger patrons and there were event with nary a sectioned off area, island’s major promotional vehicle to quite a lot of screaming teens on hand presumably for those who want to spend draw tourists. more money to enjoy slightly more I was actually surprised to hear from to get selfies with the performers, both of whom scaled the fence to hang with benefits, the St Lucia Jazz Festival was Director of Tourism, Louis Lewis, that their fans. just one big open affair. the event does not make a profit but Clearly the tourist board knew what The final weekend of the festival was the real benefits are the opportunities it would appeal to its audience. held on the scenic Pigeon Island, a large opens up to the island’s tourism sector. In fact, according to the tourist board, undulating historic park where patrons To that end, the festival is run like a wellthe weekend saw the most patrons in nestled anywhere they oiled machine. years even on the Saturday night, which chose on blankets, lounge A side stage provided traditionally registered low numbers chairs and stools. In this local entertainment in event, everyone was VIP. between the main acts each and this year broke the 4,000 mark while It was to me, the kind of night so it never felt like the the Sunday was expected to cross 7,000 patrons, the most ever. setting one would expect show was lagging. Next year, St Lucia Jazz celebrates 25 of a music festival held On the main stage, each years so a huge event is expected. Having outdoors on a Caribbean night featured a St Lucian had practically every famous performer island. Those who wanted act as the opening number and then some, all eyes are on the 2016 to be up close to the artistes and not one artiste, local, website to see who would make the cut settled stage front, separated regional or international, for the grand celebration. I certainly only by a MJO barrier, overstayed his or welcome plan to be there. which was short enough not even when the crowd —© 2015, Laura Dowrich-Phillips to block anyone’s view and wanted them to. Jimmy Cliff 12 Jazz in the Islands
PHOTO: ST LUCIA TOURISM
Pigeon Island, Saint Lucia and Pigeon Point, Tobago
PHOTO: 11 ENTERTAINMENT LTD
Tobago, to some observers, is the yin to Trinidad’s yang. These kinds of clichés don’t hold much water when observing how the two islands play out in the grander scheme of things with regards to festivals. Trinidad has its Carnival, which serves as a kind of emotional relief valve and signifier of our musical aesthetic, while Tobago, increasingly, has the marketing tool of the Tobago Jazz Experience (TJE). Trinidad’s Carnival may be fast and hard, but the TJE is no shrinking violet, not slow and soft when it comes to days of fun, music and partying. The festival jazz experience in the Caribbean it should be noted was always about hotel rooms being filled by foreign exchange spending tourists. Jazz was the least of our worries. In Tobago, in 2015, jazz was nowhere on the radar. TJE opted for two young powerhouse divas in the making with Jennifer Hudson and Jill Scott on separate nights wowing large crowds with vocal gymnastics that challenge any notion that these artists are “slumming it” when the come to the Caribbean. Along with these ladies were old school R&B heroes Kool and the Gang, Prince-wannabe Miguel, and the man himself, Machel Montano along with a cast of many local acts providing filler for a crowd that spent well “to see acts we can’t see every Carnival,” that quote from a satisfied patron on his return to his car a couple miles away via air conditioned shuttle bus. Celebration is short-lived in the enclosed space at Pigeon Point. Audiences assume the pall of catatonia—I can’t think of a more apt term—as they fluctuate between extremes of sing-along joy and dour rigidity as songs and sometimes whole repertoires wax and wane from familiarity to obscurity. “What tune is that?” Worse yet, artists have asked audiences if they are awake.
Sadly, when you are past your prime time, the ability to energise crowds with music is often diminished. How can The Rolling Stones attract and sustain stadium size audiences with a leader who is 70 plus years—although, you’d swear Mick Jagger is the Energiser Bunny on speed!—and R&B heroes onstage be a signal to leave “before the crowd rushes to the exits?” That mix of youth and experience, popularity and opportunity to discover a newer talent in the casting of this festival makes for an excitement and awe that keep the crowds flocking to Pigeon Point and the islands annually to these festivals. The Tobago House of Assembly, the de facto hosts for the event made sure that their return on investment was assured. Prices were hiked up from previous years to approximately US$100 and US$150 for the VIP section. A throwback to the idea of fencing natives, TJE’s VIP section curiously split the viewing audience in half down the centre of the crowd, so that both sides of the fence saw the same thing, What was the difference? A couple free drinks and some finger food. And most importantly, the idea of being a
VIP. In Tobago, and I guess in most of the other Caribbean islands that still use the “jazz festival” as a tourism marketing tool and magnet, the happenings outside the venue on the night are where the action really is. It’s also where the island is itself. The façade of luxe tourism fades away as one negotiates the purchase of a crab and dumpling meal on the beach for the price of a couple fast food meals. One also wonders at the idea that local food, jorts, is a kind of rarity only offered up at a port or on a beach in such a way that beckons the thought that some things are not what they should be. Finger food at Pigeon Point is the token for being a favoured fan of Tobago tourism. Some treats keep us coming back for more. — Tony Bell
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 13
Etienne Charles is on an ascendent arc. His career is filling with attributes from the commercial space he occupies in the USA, from the academic spaces he occupied in Trinidad and still occupies overseas, from this spritual space we chart in the Caribbean for musical influences and survival. Like great artists who have travelled to the periphery before, he has a goal. A review of his album Creole Soul noted: “Deciphering an arc in the themes of the four albums of Etienne to date, one sees in Culture Shock (2006), the name says it all, a musical diary of the newly minted artist in his New World of America. Folklore (2009), the suite based on local legends and Kaiso (2011) are his “Trinidad” albums; going back to the source of inspiration. Now, with Creole 14 Jazz in the Islands
Soul, he takes flight. A parallel to VS Naipaul: after his first four books set in Trinidad, he began to travel—“...my writing ambition grew. But when it was over I felt I had done all that I could do with my island material. No matter how much I meditated on it, no further fiction would come...”—ultimately to a Nobel prize. Where Etienne will go from here is the surprise that jazz holds in store for listeners.” Where he goes will be revealed in time as he recently channelled his curiosity for new inspiration beyond his creole soul to create his San José Suite, which explored stories,
rituals, native chants, rhythms, and other cultural elements that shaped three San José cities in the Americas: San José, California; San José, Costa Rica; and Charles’ native St. Joseph (San José de Oruña) here in Trinidad. He debuted this suite live at the San José Jazz Summerfest in California in August. He did not stop there. On his new album, Creole Christmas Charles’ continues in his tradition of bringing his careful study of varied rhythms from the French-, Spanish-, English- and Dutchspeaking Caribbean and ushering jazz, and
PHOTO: HOLLIS KING
His journey beyond his creole soul
now holiday music, into groundbreaking new territory. On the album, Charles and his superlative musical guests perform covers of traditional Christmas songs and popular holiday favourites, parang and local seasonal songs, American gospel, variations of selections from Tchaikovsky’s score of the Christmas-themed ballet “The Nutcracker”, all tapping into a myriad of styles rooted in Charles’ Caribbean background, his creole soul. Intelligence and joy combine for a spirited celebration of Christmas music for audiences of all ages. Somebody was listening and wathcing this movement beyond the boundary. He recently received a 2015 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; the prestigious award is given to professionals who demonstrate exceptional capacity for scholarship or creative abilities in the arts. He was just inducted into his alma mater, Fatima College’s Hall of Achievement, the youngest inductee we are told. There is merit in his distinctions that are obvious and point to a kind of genius in the making. He has been hailed by the New York Times as “an auteur” and by JazzTimes magazine as “a daring improviser.” The island as a cage was a metaphor proffered by Caribbean writers in the literary golden age (pre-independence) who were taking their first steps to seek opportunities. Charles is of a newer generation that did not abandon his influences, but embraced them while taking on the commercial realities that make for a career that wants to be long term. He would not be caged in a new world. Globe-trotting from Doha, Qatar to Java, Indonesia, from San José, California to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to Trinidad and Tobago, Charles has received critical acclaim worldwide. His creole soul is a new signifier for music that is grounded in this space.
ETIENNE CHARLES Creole Soul (Culture Shock Music, 2013)
ETIENNE CHARLES kaiso (Culture Shock Music, 2011)
“The fourth studio album from this US-based musician and teacher bristles with a kind of energy that comes from the realization that one has gone beyond...” —T&T Guardian
“Kaiso is an enticing recording by an extraordinary musician who is looking back historically and into his musical future.” —All About Jazz
Available at etiennecharles.com
Available at etiennecharles.com
ETIENNE CHARLES Culture Shock (Culture Shock Music, 2006)
ETIENNE CHARLES Folklore (Culture Shock Music, 2009)
“There is no use in trying to pigeonhole...Etienne Charles. One listen to his debut album Culture Shock shows the depth and breadth of his varied musical heritage.” —CD Baby
“What truly distinguishes Folklore is the fact that this music is not by any means a paled or halfassed attempt at revival of “old” music..” —All About Jazz
Available at etiennecharles.com
Available at etiennecharles.com
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 15
Jazz in Trinidad and Tobago An Improvised existence in the islands The following is an excerpt from a paper that was presented at a panel on “History, Difference, and Resistance in Post-Colonial Musics” at the 40th Annual Conference of the Caribbean Studies Association in New Orleans, LA, May 25-29, 2015.
Musicians: Migration and Musical Destinies Before there was a defined genre of calypso jazz, musicians, as we have noted, have engaged purposefully with variations of calypso harmonies, melodies and rhythms. In the late 1950s to the early 1960s, heralded jazz musicians like Duke Ellington (A Drum is a Woman, 1956) and Dizzy Gillespie (Jambo Caribe, 1964) were recording whole albums that captured the tone of calypso and the zeitgeist of an era when there was exchange between American and Caribbean musicians on the bandstand, in record clubs where albums and singles were exchanged1, and in the studio. In the Caribbean, this was also the era of independence after the demise of the West Indian Federation (1958-1962), and immigration to the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States served to thin out the number of active musicians in the islands, but as an unintended consequence, marked a new dawn of selfsufficiency when those who stayed would make a mark. Beginning with Rupert Clemendore, who migrated ultimately to Sweden, steelpan player Rudy Smith moved to Scandinavia, bassist David “Happy” Williams moved to the UK before settling in the US, trumpeter Errol Ince moved to London, all in the 1960s
16 Jazz in the Islands
at around the time of the birth of calypso jazz. The UK in the 1960s was already the home of Trinidadian musicians Russ Henderson (steelpan and piano), Sterling Betancourt (steelpan and drums), Wilfred Woodley (piano) and Fitzroy Coleman (guitar) who all emigrated earlier in the 1940s-1950s, and performed and recorded jazz and calypso touched with the improvisational essence of jazz on local labels there like Melodisc, Lyragon and Allegro. The music exchange occured in the UK too. English free-jazz saxophonist John Surman recorded a side of calypso jazz on his eponymous LP album in 1969 on Deram Records featuring Russell Henderson and Sterling Betancourt. Mighty Sparrow, Lord Kitchener, Sonny Rollins and Russell Henderson compositions were improvised by Surman. The album has been re-issued on CD on British label Vocalion, CDSML 8402 (2005) Those students that participated in the QRC Jazz Club thus gave identity and personage to the growth of a genre: David Boothman, Ray Holman (steelpan), Michael Georges, Wayne “Birdie” Kirton, “Junior” Doyle, Robert Bailey (back from Guyana), Wayne “Barney” Bonaparte (bass), Neil Payne (guitar), Garth Brathwaite (drums) are the names of some who would push the genre forward through the mid-1960s when original compositions were being written and performed. Another migrant who played a pivotal role in the evolution of the genre was pianist Clive “Zanda” Alexander. In 1960, at the age of twenty, he migrated to England primarily to pursue studies in architecture because the future in music was considered not lucrative. On completion of his architecture studies and his music performance in England, he returned home in 1969 and established the “Zanda Gayap Extempo/Kaiso Jazz Workshop”
Recordings: A chronology
in association with Scofield Pilgrim at the Queens Royal College (QRC) Jazz Club. Throughout the decades, a number of persons have consistently identified with the calypso jazz genre, both resident Trinidadians and diaspora residents therefore strengthening the corps of players, but also allowing for a collation of numbers across countries that can provide significant data towards any analysis of the genre. An artist who has to be included in this article is Ralph MacDonald (19442011), son of the Trinidadian calypsonian Macbeth The Great who himself performed and lived in the US during the 1940s finding an audience there before many other Caribbean musicians for creole music of the islands. MacDonald performed with Harry Belafonte throughout the 1960s before transitioning to a career as a studio percussionist for a huge Ralph MacDonald number of artists and recordings well in to 2000s. A prolific composer, arranger and performing musician, MacDonald incorporated Caribbean rhythms including calypso rhythms and steelpan in a number of his albums and songs including “Jam on the Groove,” “Calypso Breakdown,” “The Path,” and “Just The Two of Us” achieving Grammy fame and worldwide commercial accolade. His music spanned genres including jazz, R&B, disco and pop. Although an American, his aesthetic focus remained very much grounded in the islands. Musicians, paradoxically, have noted that the economic space that is Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean with a population of over 40 million people, and six languages still does not represent a cohesive space for efficient trade for their music career. Many have sought a life in exile in countries that have modern and mature creative industries, like the US, Canada, and the UK. This presents a situation where local Caribbean markets may not signify demand, but suggests that other factors are at play in decisions by musicians to continue to make the music, and for whom the music is targeted.
The recording industry in Trinidad and Tobago presents a case study in smaller economies. Native music has been recorded in these islands for over a century. In May 1912, local musicians, Lovey’s Original Trinidad String Band were recorded in New York playing typical native and original music some 18 months before the first sessions by jazz pioneer James Reece Europe’s Society Orchestra, and almost five years before the first jazz recording by the Original Dixieland ‘Jass’ Band. In 1914, Victor Recording Limited visited the island to record calypso. In the intervening century, major American labels such as RCA and smaller ones like Cook Records have made inroads in to the local record industry in both recording and distribution. At the same time, local entrepreneurs have followed suit cataloging the output of a myriad of artists for local consumption, and for diaspora customers in the US, North America and Europe filling the voids when major multinational labels were no longer seeking local music. By 2006, it was estimated that the Trinidad and Tobago music industry was shown to generate US$26 million annually (TT $169 million), unfortunately still not updated with fresh research or data. A large percentage of that figure represents Carnival music: soca and calypso. Calypso jazz is not considered Carnival music and is not performed at Carnival despite the presence in the music of calypso rhythms and the steelpan. In the early 1970s, the African diaspora in the Americas was challenging the status quo of authority and propiety in culture, politics and art. QRC Jazz Club alumnus David Boothman with Family Tree, The Band released a single, “So Dey Say,” that skirted with the
Family Tree, The Band
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 17
idea of Afro-Caribbean rhythms juxtaposed with some improvised instrumentation much in the same way that fellow alum Robert Bailey was now composing and performing with pioneering world music band Osibisa in the UK. Extended instrumental compositions with a jazz approach and lengthy group improvisations were defining features of this new music. In 1971, the Modern Sound Quintet with Rudy Smith on steelpans, recorded the jazz album Otinku in Sweden, released in 1972 with steelpan as a lead instrument. Distribution to the Caribbean for this Scandinavian import was poor, so the cultural exchange of an earlier time was circumscribed by market forces. 1974 was a watershed year when Trinidadian steelpan player Earl Rodney recorded and released an album that was again to feature the steelpan as a lead instrument in an improvised musical setting, Friends & Countrymen. Recorded in New York with a number of ex-pat Trinidadian musicians, this album showed the way for many others to follow. Richard Bailey along with other Trinidadian expats in the UK would record I See The Light as the short-lived group, Batti Mamzelle, with big brother Robert producing, further exploring the relatively new jazz-rock fusion and world music fusion experiments happening in the US and UK at that time. Meanwhile, Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander would record Rass! that same year thus exploring Jamaican mento and expanding Caribbean musical fusion. In the space of three years, two other significant calypso jazz albums were to follow opening up the record buying public to the sound that was developing for about a decade up to that time. Clive Zanda released in 1975 the album Clive Zanda is Here with “Dat Kinda Ting” (Calypsojazz Innovations) that showcased a musician who was a generation before the QRC Jazz Club alumni. His piano playing reflected the touch of his hero Randy Weston, but reveled in the various rhythms that point to Trinidad as the locus, and re-framed calypsos in 18 Jazz in the Islands
a new style. Zanda expands here: I am a kaiso-jazz composer and improviser in that for me a substantial amount of extemporization over kaiso rhythms is now being incorporated into the tapestry of evolving jazz forms. Our music roots are firmly planted in kaiso, steel pan and the diverse indigenous culture. For me, that’s where our music education should be grounded evolving our own form of “home grown” jazz direction with a global outreach. In 1976, Tabu Records out of Los Angeles released Michael Boothman’s Heaven that completed the circle for this QRC Jazz Club alum as a major label release for the genre. Major label executive Clarence Avant heard a Boothman single on a cruise ship at the port of Port of Spain and sought him out for a songwriter deal. By then, he was a popular artist in Trinidad promoting his brand called “kysofusion.” Avant brought Boothman to the US and put him in the studio with noted session musicians Leon Pendarvis, Errol “Crusher” Bennett and Jon Faddis and others to complete the album, which was released by RCA in Trinidad and Tobago. Up to this point, most records were released independently in the islands with artists and small independent distributors controlling distribution among a mainly diaspora audience on the US east coast. Heaven had the potential to make a case for wider acclaim of Caribbean music outside of reggae and calypso at this point with its distribution network. It did not. Market demand outside the Trinidad and Tobago diaspora was muted. From that point onward from the 1980s into the new century, Trinidadian musicians in the islands and in the diaspora continued to sporadically produce albums including Annise Hadeed and Richard Bailey recording as part of the group The Breakfast Band. One can identify about four “generations” of musicians that have contributed to and sustained the genre. They are: 1. The Scofield Pilgrim Generation (late 1950s through the 1960s)- those pioneers who were Scofield’s contemporaries and successors such as Rupert Clemendore; Clive Zanda; Ralph Davies; Errol Ince; Ray Holman; Rudy Smith; Earl Rodney.
2. The protégés of the Scofield Generation (1970s to 1980s)- Raf Robertson; the Boothman brothers, David and Michael; Annise Hadeed; the Bailey brothers, Robert and Richard; Ron Reid; “Professor” Philmore and Dave Marcellin (dec.). The QRC Jazz Club alumni. Pioneering jazz fusion and spreading to the diaspora metropolitan cities. 3. The New School (late 1990s to early 2000s)- students of higher learning in music who finally challenged the status quo in the new century, and who have recorded prolifically, utilizing modern technology: Theron Shaw; Clifford Charles; Michael “Ming” Low Chew Tung; Chantal Esdelle; Sean Thomas; and 4. The Young Lions (2000s and beyond)- Etienne Charles, Tony Woodroffe Jr., Mikhail Salcedo, Modupe Onilu. In Trinidad and Tobago, a new generation of musicians who was mentored by the protégés of the Scofield Pilgrim generation began to produce and record new music. At the zenith of global compact disc sales in the turn of the century, The New School generation of artists launched their first albums. Michael Low Chew Tung launched his first album under his band’s name élan parlē, Tribal Voices. To date, Low Chew Tung has released seven more albums, as well as executive produced three more for various artists. He was responsible for over one-third of the local output in the intervening years positioning him to be the architect of the new calypso jazz in the 21st century. Local compact disc releases flourished. High end recorder and distributor Sanch Electronix specialized in steelpan and pan jazz recordings and recorded improvised performances by pianists Clive Zanda and Felix Roach, and steelpan virtuosos Annise Hadeed and Rudy Smith, and other music putting half a dozen albums in the marketplace. Artist-produced and -distributed albums proliferated. American steelpan musician, Andy Narell represents a major subset of pan jazz. He is born in the US and is based in the France (latterly, St Lucia), and has over 18 albums as leader, solo or with bands Sakesho and Caribbean Jazz Project, and with calypsonian Relator. Andy Narell
This prolific output skews the data which show that in the sub-genre, Narell is responsible for almost 40% of recorded output. The response from Trinidadians is mixed. With many American universities offering courses in steelpan, and recording their output either as an ensemble or by selected soloists, the pendulum of influence on steelpan and pan jazz is moving away from Trinidad. The increasing paucity of local pan jazz has not been reversed. There has been international interest in reissues of the early recordings on vinyl that went out of print. Japanese label Em Records re-issued Friends & Countrymen and Otinku on compact disc both in 2008, while another Japanese imprint, Creole Stream Music, re-issued Michael Boothman’s Heaven on CD in 2014. In this modern age when digital downloads are superseding compact disc sales in many markets, many albums produced in Trinidad are not on the major digital music sales platforms, further diminishing the potential to spread the genre wider via sales. The opportunities that live performance presents in the income profile of modern musicians is stymied in Trinidad and Tobago because of size. — © 2015, Nigel A. Campbell
To read the complete paper online, click on the link here or Scan the QR Code below.
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 19
PAN JAZZ PICNIC
Steelpan music on disc is a rare find. Pan jazz is even rarer. Despite the proliferation of digital platforms to get the music to the consumer, it is noted that many early pan jazz recordings produced in Trinidad are not on these digital platforms. Our loss. As noted in the previous edition, more recordings are coming out of the United States and Europe. Also some interesting stuff is happening in Japan by innovative musicians and and ensembles there. The Japanese and Europeans have also gotten into the act of re-issuing compilations of early recordings of a lot 20 Jazz in the Islands
of early Caribbean music including pan jazz. The effort to compile a discography of jazz with steelpan is minimal as output is low, but we persist. The catalogue of existing discs is small but important and would allow for us in the magazine to adequately review the recordings over a number of issues. In this edition, we feature three albums from France, a growing hotbed for innovative steelpan jazz, and three from Trinidadians resident in the USA. Leon Foster Thomas, a proponent of free jazz and fusion is recording now and would be adding to his current two albums to date.
As noted in this issue of Jazz in the Islands, the unmatched prolific and long term output of Rudy Smith signals that the potential to grow the catalogue is real. The Caribbean artists are migrating to the respective markets to exploit them, and the pendulum of influence for steelpan jazz may be in flux away from Trinidad. American universities are producing a number of ensembles of worth, and their industries allow for the recorded output to be part of the music economy. Hereâ€™s looking forward to more pan jazz music for this corner.
Caraïb To Jazz Caraïb To Jazz (Caraïb To Jazz Prod., 2011)
Caraïb To Jazz Four Elements (Caraïb To Jazz Prod., 2014)
DJAZIL Djazil (Hot Shoe Records, 2011)
“As fans of French Antillean jazz group Sakesho, this new band of young musicians, have been guided by that same spark of Caribbean fusion to an awesome debut.” —Jazz in the Islands
“As a fallow-up to their debut from just two years ago, Four Elements show a greater understanding of the musical impulses that these isles project towards jazz. Hot music!” —Jazz in the Islands
“ Rather than creating the usual calypso vibe, the pan is the lead singer of the group and commands attention as a lyrical voice.” —Hot Shoe Records
Available at iTunes.com
Available at iTunes.com
Available at CDBaby.com
LEON FOSTER THOMAS Brand New Mischief (Krossover Jazz, 2012)
LEON FOSTER THOMAS What You Don’t Know (Krossover Jazz, 2010)
REID, WRIGHT AND BE HAPPY Pan-Jazz from Trinidad & Tobago (Sanch Electronix, 2003)
“Brand New Mischief may help to broaden Leon Foster Thomas’ audience, and he certainly deserves to be heard.” —All About Jazz
“This album comes as a breath of fresh air. Bringing to you music that is not expected from the Steelpan with pulsating grooves fused jazz licks, you will want to listen to it over and over.’” —CDBaby
“The spirit of great calypso as well as the language of Charlie Parker is in wonderful evidence on this CD” —Monty Alexander
Available at iTunes.com
Available at iTunes.com
Available at iTunes.com
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 21
REVIEWS Dion Parson & 21st Century Band
Robert “Dubwise” Browne
Drummer Dion Parson from St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands has gathered a cadre of cohorts, fellow islanders mostly based in New York now, to re-chart the music of that island group and the wider Caribbean on their new album St. Thomas. Jazz stars in their own right, bassist Reuben Rogers, pannist Victor Provost, trumpeter Rashawn Ross and saxophonist Ron Blake among others
Guitarist Robert Browne delivers on the traditional smooth jazz output of modern Caribbean musicians by putting his electric guitar front and centre to assay the landscape of easy listening options. His has a sound and tone that can easily make fans of diehard purists. As the title of his new album suggests, the groove is solid on this set of ten instrumental tracks. The range of moods on this album span from upbeat to contemplative. A compilation of popular Jamaican reggae songs from the past decade including fellow Jamaican Tessanne Chin’s hit “Hideaway,” and Maxi Priest’s “Close To You”, among others, gives this album an appeal that is nurtured by solid musicianship and quality production. Browne, who was the guitarist for dancehall crossover star Shaggy for a number of years, recently branched out on his own to pursue a solo career. This solo career debut is a feather in his cap.
St. Thomas (Self Released)
Spiritual Awakening (Self Released) Trombonist Reginald Cyntje (pronounced SIN-chee), born in Dominica, raised in St. Thomas USVI, and now living in Washington DC released his fourth album as a leader, Spiritual Awakening as a continuation of his reflection on the abstractions of human existence via jazz music. The album has been described as one that “musically embodies humanity’s complex journey from introspection to a celebration of freedom.” With titles that evoke personal declarations that sometimes touch on the religious, “Atonement,” “Beatitudes,” “Prayer,” “Ritual,” this album of nine tunes should not be construed as instrumental gospel, but a refinement of the evolving journey of this Caribbean jazzman towards a sophisticated veneration. With the wordless singing by Christie Dashiell juxtaposing effectively, this album is also a spotlight for the instrumental brilliance of soloists Allyn Johnson on piano and Victor Provost on steelpan, and Cyntje himself, never completely abandoning that Caribbean-ness in the groove. Jazz in the islands has moved a step ahead. Available at reginaldcyntje.com Also available at: 22 Jazz in the Islands
Groovy Love Thing (Self Released)
join Parson in his 21st Century Band to cover a couple island standards and define a new VI jazz sound. The title track, an old calypso made famous by island descendent Sonny Rollins is given a new sheen with rhythms untested by the jazz master many years ago. Covering Bob Marley, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis, and providing some originals, the band utilises native music forms like quelbe, and broader reggae and calypso rhythms to transform the sound of Caribbean jazz into a new fusion that points to a new direction. Also available at:
Also available at:
MONTY ALEXANDER Harlem-Kingston Express Vol 2 (Motéma Music, 2014)
ELAN TROTMAN Tropicality (Woodward Avenue Records, 2013)
“Every time Monty Alexander sits down at the piano, he brings a world of music and experiences to life.” —WBGO 88.3 FM
“Elan Trotman brings to us on Tropicality, his sixth and latest solo album, the very rich and tasty melodies of the lands of warmth and serenity.” —Smooth Jazz Ride
Available at iTunes.com
Available at iTunes.com
RONALD ‘BOO’ HINKSON Shades (Ronald Boo Hinkson, 2011)
RICKY BRATHWAITE City Life (Wycliffe Brathwaite, 2012)
“It’s not hard to stop whatever you’re doing, grab a seat (or a dance partner), and fall captive to the gripping rhythms and exquisite sounds emanating from Hinkson’s guitar.” —Smooth Jazz Ride
“In the album City Life, Ricky Brathwaite has provided an aoutstanding addtion to the annals of local original material.” —Nation News
Available at iTunes.com
Available at iTunes.com
REGINALD CYNTJE Love (Reginald Cyntje, 2013)
PEDRO LEZAMA Pure Pleasure (Sanch Electronix, 2014)
EDDIE BULLEN Spice Island (Thunder Dome Sounds 2015)
REGINALD CYNTJE Elements of Life (Reginald Cyntje, 2014)
“The Love album is a series of tone poems that expand in the imagination with each listen.” —Reginald Cyntje
“Pure Pleasure...certainly has its moments of pleasure and is worth a listen.” —T&T Guardian
“Spice Island is a musical reflection of my life as a teenager growing up on the “spice island” of Grenada in the Caribbean.” —Eddie Bullen
“Elements of Life’ explores the connection between the human being and the elements (Earth, Sky, Fire, Water, and Wind) that nurture us..” —Washington City Paper
Available at iTunes.com
Available at Sanch
Available at CDBaby.com
Available at iTunes.com
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 23
What’s in a Name? Towards a Definition of Calypso Jazz by Michael Low Chew Tung • firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Is improvising over a calypso tune Calypso Jazz? 2. Is playing a jazz standard in calypso time Calypso Jazz? 3. Does playing a calypso standard in jazz time make it Calypso Jazz? 4. What about jazz harmony and phrasing over calypso time?
5. Or calypso phrasing and jazz harmony over calypso time? 6. Or even calypso phrasing with jazz harmony over jazz time? 7. Is an instrumental calypso the same as Calypso Jazz? And what about our famous Pan Jazz? Described as a misnomer by some since jazz is a genre of music and the steel pan is a musical instrument, the questions remain: 1. Is Pan Jazz really Calypso Jazz with steel pan as the lead instrument? 2. Is Pan Jazz simply traditional jazz with steel pan as the lead instrument? 3. Do Panorama tunes with their advanced arrangements, reharmonization, motivic development etc. count as Pan Jazz? 4. Does any instrumental tune with lead pan count as Pan Jazz? In a recent workshop with Kaisojazz pioneer Clive “Zanda” Alexander, Clive was asked how he would define Jazz. Clive replied, “Jazz is an improvisational musical artform that allows freedom of expression.”
Clive Zanda 24 Jazz in the Islands
He went on to draw parallels between Jazz and Calypso. What is Extempo? He pondered. “Extempo is making music on the spot; The Nowness of Now,” he answered. Now what is Improvisation? “It’s the same thing; The Nowness of Now,” he exclaimed. When asked what was the highlight of his career Zanda said it was his greatest pleasure “to play music that allowed me my freedom of expression AND to identify with my culture.” Eureka! A light bulb went off in my head. I finally had a definition: Improvisational Music that allows us the Freedom to Identify with our Cultural Selves. That is Calypso Jazz. Thank you Clive. Have something to add or a comment to make? Send your thoughts to nigel@ jazz.tt so we may include it in our next issue. Read more online at jazz.tt
PHOTO: CLIVE ZANDA
Calypso and Jazz have enjoyed a century long relationship that has seen both musical genres spread around the Globe. While Jazz is mostly instrumental and Calypso predominantly lyrical, Improvisation is central to both styles, only in Calypso it’s called Extempo or extemporaneous singing. Calypso, in its evolution, has borrowed from the language of Jazz, and Jazz has done likewise in its exploration of Calypso rhythms and melodies. So it’s no wonder that today we have a clique of musicians playing, performing, composing and recording an idiom called Calypso Jazz. From the works of Lionel Belasco and Sam Manning, to Rupert Clemendore and John “Buddy” Williams; Randy Weston and Sonny Rollins, to Clive “Zanda” Alexander and Scofield Pilgrim. It begs the question: What is Calypso Jazz?
Read more online at jazz.tt Jazz in the Islands. December 2015 3
4 Jazz in the Islands
Published on Nov 26, 2015
Trinidadian trumpeter Etienne Charles moves beyond his Creole soul. And more stories that chronicle jazz in the Caribbean and Caribbean Jazz...