Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Caribbean Beat Caribbean Playlist - May/June 2016ª

Pathways Zane Rodulfo

Drummer Zane Rodulfo on his debut EP Pathways shows a maturity beyond his twenty-six years as composer of and rhythmic support for a short set of original jazz instrumentals. Dissecting the music, one is awed by the seemingly cultivated approach of the musical themes on this production. As a graduate of both Oberlin College and New York University, Rodulfo has an unsurprisingly studied approach, but the artist’s youth throws a wrench in the theory that this level of quiet contemplation must come with age and experience. Rodulfo’s Trinidad roots are reflected purely in the sound, not necessarily the rhythms. He composed four of the five tunes on this collection himself, and the superlative interplay between jazz guitar or saxophone and the effectively anchored rhythm section suggests that as a producer he is not selfish, and his gifts lie in creating environments for musicians to run free without bombast. This EP is a great launching pad for a stellar international career.

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  1. More Caribbean Playlist reviews appear in theMay/June 2016 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2016, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 25 March 2016

That Happened last night: Vaughnette Bigford at Kaiso Blues

It happened last night. I have known Vaughnette Bigford for a while now as a superb singer in the style of those smoky voiced songstresses from a bygone jazz era reborn in the 21st century. Abbey Lincoln “reborn” as Cassandra Wilson. Nina Simone, however, is the template I see when I see Vaughnette. Another is Miriam Makeba. Them two born she! VOH'net! Our Vaughnette is the modern creole chanteuse, the New World African queen. Not a diva, but the real thing imbuing a Trinidadian ethos missing from many young interlopers singing jazz here. Vaughnette has been a star for many years. A star who has her own in-demand splendid concerts in the south, Shades of Vaughnette. I have written about her three Shades concerts over the years. (I, II, III) I had hosted her at Jazz Artists on the Greens in 2009 before she made her live debut as a SONGBIRD in that series later that year at Aura Restaurant (now Town on Cipriani Blvd.). I recognise her worth. I know that when Vaughnette sings, an audience expectation of a fulfilling experience will be met and exceeded. I know that she will deliver at a level of professionalism that supersedes even stars in other genres. 

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Caribbean Beat Caribbean Playlist - March/April 2016ª

Spice Island Eddie Bullen

Smooth jazz is a music genre that purists love to hate, but in the Caribbean, it is increasingly becoming the pleasing soundtrack of resort life for fortunate travellers in search of sun, sand and sea. Purity be damned when there is a market for the slick and increasingly popular sound in these isles. Toronto-based Grenadian keyboardist and music producer Eddie Bullen, says that this album “is a musical reflection of [his] life as a teenager growing up on the ‘spice island’ of Grenada,” but it can also be seen as a catalogue of all the smooth jazz tropes that have marked the music for either fame or disdain. Piano trills, ubiquitous programmed synths, chill vibes, funky motifs; they are all there. Spice Island is a metaphor for an idealised Caribbean vacation. Sure handed production values that augur well for this album to be a call card for jazz cruises makes this a listenable treat.

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For One To Love Cécile McLorin Salvant

Haitian pride remains intact despite generations of miscegenation and migration. Jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant notes that with pride: “I was not at all raised in an African-American family culture. My dad is Haitian, mom is French-Guadeloupean, and in Miami [where she was born], on top of that, we had more of a Caribbean vibe.” Heritage and identity are touchstones for conversations among others, but the music on this third album by Salvant speaks to an all-encompassing American heritage: jazz. Depending on your perspective, this album can either challenge expectations or satisfy the soul as she continues her efforts at mining the early songs of the genre to create new impressions for new audiences. Five originals balance this set of veritable unheralded standards from a bygone era cementing this album as a new recipe for jazz singing. Recasting love songs and imbuing new meaning to a jaded lyric is Salvant’s goal. Well played.

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  1. More Caribbean Playlist reviews appear in theMarch/April 2016 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2016, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Caribbean Beat Caribbean Playlist - January/ February 2016ª

Guilty Pleasure Alexis Baro

(G-Three Records)

Toronto-based Cuban trumpeter Alexis Baro has released a ten-track album of jazz music that has the chill vibe in effect, but also focuses on the idea that you can take an islander to the city, but his island-ness is a hard thing to shake off. Laid-back sensuality is an apt phrase to describe the mood of the album, but Afro-Cuban sentiments and rhythms creep in seductively, giving the impression that one is listening to a duality of ambition. On “Eres”, fellow Toronto-based Cuban rapper Telmary (Díaz) provides a spoken-word juxtaposition to Baro’s muted horn; hot hiphop à la Habana. On “African Prince”, Baro blows frenetically and on point over conga drums as a segue to a languid piano solo that serves as a lesson in Latin jazz. Canadian spoken word artist Dwayne Morgan smoothly defines what his guilty pleasures are on the title track. Consuming this album could be yours.

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  1. More Caribbean Playlist reviews appear in the January/ February 2016 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2016, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

A riff on Raf! (Expanded)

Raf Robertson, 1952 - 2015. Photo by Maria Nunes. All Rights Reserved.

It all started with the theme song for a radio programme on 610 Radio in the late 1990s. A mid-day current affairs talk show with a female hostess and call-in section. I can't remember the name, but it always piqued my interest, not solely because of the topics, but because of that damn theme song. It sounded local, but it sounded "foreign." Just an instrumental snippet about 30 seconds long that celebrated, what I later came to find out was the genius of Kitchener. The song snippet was from "Branches," the title track of Raf's second album recorded in Toronto by Eddie Bullen. That sound. That was a modern sound that signalled that we were on the right track to globalising our music; a catch-phrase still in use by government state enterprises looking to diversify the economy, which really means "to sound foreign enough to satisfy non-native ears," I am told. That album came out in 1994. Recorded with ex-pat Caribbean folks. We have come full circle.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Ah Comin’ Home!

Creole Christmas returns the native gaze to local audiences.

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.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Jazz in the Islands Reviews: December 2015

Etienne Charles: Creole Christmas

(Culture Shock Music, 2015)

Christmas albums are described in the music industry as sure fire money-makers 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 of the Sugar Plum Fairy” 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, Christmas is Mine” as potent responses to the canned background music for mall shoppers. A sure fire classic has arrived to balance the creole influence of here with the temperate seductions of there.

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Rudy "Two Left" 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.

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More reviews reviews appear in the December 2015 issue of Jazz in the Islands magazine.

© 2015, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.