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.