Monday, 6 January 2014

CD review: Moyenne - Imbizo Moyenne

"Chantal Esdelle, a Berklee College of Music graduate, holds an important place among jazz musicians here, as she is one of, if not the only female band leader who is a renowned pianist in this island. She is part of a lineage that would probably include Winifred Atwell and tangentially Hazel Scott. Unlike those two artistes, Esdelle has been able to mine the musical influences of Trinidad and in a deeper sense, Africa and the African diaspora in the New World for her compositions. Further, unlike Atwell and Scott, Esdelle has a body of original compositions on her two CD releases that now place her ahead of a number of jazz luminaries in the islands who still balk at releasing original music, thus diluting the well of local copyrights to be exploited by the world..."

The above quoted epigraph was from an aborted review of the CD launch event for Imbizo Moyenne. the new CD from Chantal Esdelle and Moyenne, back in May 2013. The sentiment, however, is an absolute truth. There is no denying that Esdelle, and by extension Moyenne deserve to be heard, more so in our context as a burgeoning music industry. Time has allowed the disappointment of that release event to be replaced with the joy in heralding this new music. Out now in CD format to supplement the digital version already available in limited release, this simply packaged CD fills a yawning gap in the canon of locally-released jazz music.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Jazz in a Sacred Space: Etienne Charles at the Little Carib Theatre, Trinidad

Fresh from an exciting TEDx Port of Spain talk in the morning, the always dapper Etienne Charles and his band delivered a superb set of jazz at the gala opening of his Creole Soul tour stop in Trinidad on the evening of November 30 at the Little Carib Theatre in Port of Spain. A homecoming of sorts—this is the second return on this tour having performed at Jazz on the Beach in April this year in Tobago—this stop solidifies the star status of this highly personable trumpeter and musician.

Delivering two sold-out shows on that weekend, it became obvious that this venue is too small for the natural local audience of this globe-trotting musician. After forty-plus international performances in support of his latest CD Creole Soul, Charles again raises the bar for local musicians to go over, and continues to serve as an apt inspiration of desired goals.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

I Am Élan Parlē: A declaration of Independence

Liner notes for élan parlē’s 2013 CD, I Am Élan Parlē
In 2000, I was living in the US capital, Washington DC, some five hours driving south on the I-95 from the mecca of Caribbean –American cultural existence, New York, and five hours flying north from Trinidad; remote, yet within reach. Howard University, Georgia Avenue, the T&T Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue: district landmarks of connectedness for a homesick soul. Caribbean musical heritage peppers the shelves of the Library of Congress, at the Smithsonian Institution, in the many book stores and those ubiquitous mementos from that age, the record & CD store. The sounds of Trinidad, the echoes of having fun were silently present in this international city.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

This Is Élan Parlé: A concert review

Michael “Ming” Low Chew Tung and his band/brand Élan Parlé proved why they are a necessary force in the music industry here in Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday 28 at Queen’s Hall. A two hour performance of original instrumental tunes and arrangements interspersed with revealing conversation, interesting music lessons and funny stories made for an entertainment package that continues the high standard set by show producer, Curtain Call Productions.

Admitting that this was the first “full concert” in seven years, the band with a new line-up of players delivered on the promise of one explosive night of Caribbean jazz fusion. Culling compositions from his publishing catalogue going back to the debut CD, “Tribal Voices” in 2000, Ming commanded an ensemble of seasoned “young lion” musicians to play with the easy elegance that defines the Élan Parlé sound.

The band, with Ming on keyboards anchored by bassist Rodney Alexander, percussionist Modupe Onilu and long-time drummer Richard Joseph, allowed guitarist Dean Williams and woodwind specialist Anthony Woodroffe, Jr. to solo and improvise on the many compositions that celebrate a kind of Caribbean aesthetic that is both global in its sound and interpretation and original to its roots in the music and rhythms of this region.  When Williams and Woodroffe were “trading fours” (alternate brief solos back and forth over the same music segment) on “Are We Grooving Yet?” there was much joy and ovation. We in the Caribbean know how to enjoy ourselves, and this music provided an apt soundtrack to the evening's merriment. The leap of faith by the performer that this audience would “get it” was confirmed.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

John John - Citagrandson - A CD Review¹

Soul is, in the words of writer Nelson George, “a one word summation of our [Black America’s] spirit, our desires and self-esteem.” In T&T in the 1970s, local bands like Kalyan and Sound Revolution flirted with the sounds and rhythms of soul music and channelled its celebratory spirit. In 2013, a new avatar for soul has arrived.

John John debuts as the local poster boy for neo-soul singers with his first album Citagrandson on Highway Records. The self-penned 12 tracks on this CD paint the picture of a young man discovering his true self and exploring his longings. “Let’s Make Music” is brutally frank about his desires:  “...take off those clothes/make 10 toes 20, your chakras exposed.”

Production values that look to the larger world for validation, excellently highlighting John John’s slinky voice to effect, are keys that the label and artist can depend on for making that international breakthrough.
  1. This review appeared in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian as part of the article, "Music from John John: T&T’S SOUL"
© 2013, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Electric ascendance of Etienne Charles: Creole Soul – a CD Review¹

With his simple declaration to this writer, “sound is my art...I just try to create,” Trinidadian jazz trumpeter Etienne Charles puts into context his role of creator and producer in relation to his latest recording Creole Soul, out now on Culture Shock Music and distributed in North America by RED/Sony Music Entertainment,. This new album, previewed earlier this year in Tobago at Jazz on the Beach at Mt Irvine reveals to this writer an evolution of his art that parallels our most distinguished author and the jazz idiom’s most eclectic trumpeter and influence.

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; beyond the usual expectations of a Caribbean existence, beyond the boundary of the usual sonic influences that have paved the way for this jazz lion. The familiar tropes of calypso rhythm inflected jazz that have been a hallmark of our jazz here for decades—from Duke Ellington's A Drum is a Woman (1956) to Rupert Clemendore's Le Jazz Trinidad (1961) and Dizzy Gillespie's Jambo Caribe (1964)—are abandoned for a modern post-bop and jazz fusion take on the material and all its thematic and stylistic influences in the New World.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The evolution of Ruth Osman: Letting Go - a CD Review¹

Ruth Osman launched her debut CD, “Letting Go” on the first weekend in July in a pair of spectacularly produced concerts at the Little Carib Theatre. Those concerts set a new benchmark for these kinds of events here, and one wishes that all CD launches operate at this level of professionalism where production value is honoured and audience expectation are not dashed.

The production team of Jason Dasent and his team at Studio Jay Recording Ltd created a new milieu for Ruth in the concert and on the record. On this 10-track CD, this Guyanese song bird has evolved from the easy elegance of her tropical neo-folk acoustic trio, Jacoustik—featuring Marva Newton and James Fenton on guitar and congas respectively—to the lush layering of synthesizers and background vocal harmonies of this recording.

In an instant, the listener realises that this record is making a commercial statement beyond the confines of the neo-folk genre. The worldliness of the production signals a departure from the status quo for this singer who has been performing in T&T for over five years. A couple tracks work well in this new milieu of layered sounds namely “New Blues” with the organ that mimics the Doors/Ray Manzarek sound over a jazz waltz tempo. The bluesy wail is not missed as Ruth channels the lyrics intent; a series of repeated couplets professing love and asking for a continued presence, “Don’t ever leave, boy. / You’ve got what I need.