Thursday, 31 July 2014

Theron Shaw: Gumbo Caribe - a CD review¹


Theron Shaw is well known in local music circles as the go-to man for guitar support ranging from jazz to calypso. His two previous releases signalled a willingness to engage with native cultural mores and tackle Caribbean Jazz not only as a way to “tropicalise” harmonically complex original music, but as a way to validate and valorise calypsoes, ethnic music and folk songs in a surprisingly new context. With his third release on CD, Gumbo Caribe, Shaw almost exclusively utilises the talents of a cadre of Boston-based BerkLee College of Music faculty and alumni to expand the thematic influences beyond the border.

Those musicians include Trinidad-born professor of music, Ron Reid, who acts as producer and earns an album artist credit, along with dynamic drummer Harvey Wirht, originally from Suriname. Reid has honed his skill of pulling superlative performances out of musicians—last year, that was on display at his One Night Only concert at All Saints Church Hall with local jazz talent—and on this album, the challenging variety of moods is adequately handled. Wirht leads by example to masterfully interpret the varied rhythms that are explored on this album. The challenge, if there is one at all, of playing live with musicians “outside the box” is recognised by the listener as the new aesthetics of jazz: just play...well!

Shaw says:
Gumbo Caribe represents a mix of styles and influences that I’ve been nurturing developing for a number of years. You will hear influences from the French Caribbean via the mennde and mazurka [mazouk], a Brazilian textured partido alto, and of course my own twists of calypso and folk rhythms.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Caribbean Beat Reviews – July/August 2014ª

Jazz Racine Haïti Jacques Schwarz-Bart

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. That memory of the music, and his own yearning to create jazz that is reflective of his French-Caribbean heritage propelled Schwarz-Bart to first perform and later, to record Jazz Racine Haïti as a document of the spiritual journey beyond Haiti all the way back to Africa. To re-arrange vodou music for this band featuring jazz musicians and two houngans (vodou priests) was an exercise to engage with the greatness of this music. “That dialogue with silence [music] creates a doorway to the unknown.” “Legba Nan Baye” fuses, in real time, ritual music and jazz, voice and tenor sax. African-Caribbean grooves that drive this music beyond spirituality achieve a synergy where modern jazz and vodou are one.

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TriniJazz Project Various Artists

Michael “Ming “ Low Chew Tung is the architect of 21st century jazz recording and performance in Trinidad and Tobago, following on from mentors like Clive Zanda and Mike Boothman, prolifically producing original music to add to the local canon. Now, he acts as mentor and producer for a new generation of young jazz musicians and singers with a new CD, TriniJazz Project. Polished arrangements and smooth jazz elements shouldn’t suggest any sell-out to the aesthetics of Caribbean luxe tourism or middlebrow leisure culture, but in the hands of the players, Tony Paul (sax), Rodney Alexander (bass), Modupe Onilu (percussion), Dean Williams (guitar) and smoky voiced chanteuse Vaughnette Bigford these ten tunes are a celebration of how we sing, dance and live in these islands. The reframed calypsoes of Bigford, the rhythmic pulse of Onilu, and the improvised joy by the others say “trinijazz” is the definition of accomplished.

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  1. More Caribbean Playlist reviews appear in the July/August 2014 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.