Saturday, 1 July 2017

Caribbean Beat Caribbean Playlist – July/August 2017ª

Shades of Life Marvin Dolly
(Self Released)

New York–based Trinidadian guitarist Marvin Dolly surprises on this debut album, Shades of Life, with a quiet contemplation of trio-playing featuring just guitar, bass, and trumpet. In an intimate setting devoid of the thump of the drum, the soloists each have room to speak clearly and emotively in this conversation among acoustic instruments. Dolly, along with J.S. Williams on trumpet and John Gray on double bass, mainly, cruises through this set of subdued jazz tunes that harken back to the cool jazz ambience of 1950s West Coast America, contrasting with the bebop bombast of New York of the same era. The music, thankfully, does not wallow in the excess of a similar-sounding ambient lounge or minimalist new-age aesthetic. Dolly’s guitar finds its full voice on the tracks “Calypsonian Dream” and “Short Letters to Mother”, solo and duet guitar pieces, respectively, that make a solid opening gambit for a Caribbean instrumentalist’s voice in the diaspora.


Sabiduría/Wisdom Eddie Palmieri
(Ropeadope Records)

The Caribbean is a trans-nation of expanded and connected diasporas. Puerto Rican heritage extends beyond its island space to include its famous diaspora citizens. Bronx-born Eddie Palmieri is a legendary Latin jazz pianist, who at the age of eighty may have delivered one of the most sonically and musically endearing albums in his career. Not that he “finally got the formula right,” but with those years of experience as a bandleader, composer, and arranger, and the “wisdom” — sabiduría in Spanish — that comes with that experience, Palmieri can pull together some of the finest talent, young and old, in jazz and salsa/Latin music to successfully and pleasingly blend the Afro-Caribbean rhythms of his Puerto Rican island “home” with the harmonically complex sounds of mainland jazz and bebop. The album also extends the fusion to include bossa nova on “Samba Do Suenho” and Cuban son on “Coast to Coast”.

  1. More Caribbean Playlist reviews appear in the July/August 2017 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2017, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Caribbean Beat Caribbean Playlist – May/June 2017ª

Born to Shine Vaughnette Bigford 

(Self Released)

Creole chanteuse Vaughnette Bigford delivers a sublime mix of tunes from her native Trinidadian songbook on her debut album Born to Shine. With a restrained but fine voice that captures the timbre and phrasing of excellent jazz singing, Bigford transforms familiar calypsos and island pop songs from the 1970s and 80s into well-wrought modern jazz and R&B settings that highlight fine examples of local songcraft. “All these years of toil, burning the midnight oil / Creating something from nothing,” wrote soca pioneer Lord Shorty in 1978. Bigford literally and figuratively has done just that with these rehashed songs. The proverb “don’t judge a book by its cover,” may be applied here — defaults in packaging design aside — as we bask in the splendour of what’s inside the music. High production value, lucid enunciation of lyrics needing to be heard, and elevation of island song are the hallmarks of an audacious debut destined to shine brightly.

  1. More Caribbean Playlist reviews appear in the May/June 2017 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2017, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Caribbean Beat Caribbean Playlist - March/April 2017ª

Bright Eyes Victor Provost 

(Paquito Records)

Virgin Island steelpan jazz virtuoso Victor Provost sets an optimistic tone with his second album, Bright Eyes, capturing the influence of the Caribbean more so than on his debut album six years ago. Bebop swagger gives way to a progressive jazz world fusion while still maintaining a deft touch that allows the tenor pan to ring true. On the eleven tunes on this album, Provost runs through a gamut of styles and select composers, to give the steelpan a context outside its calypso base. The obligatory homage to calypso legend Lord Kitchener is included — “Pan in Harmony” — but this album reflects Provost’s recent apprenticeship with Cuban saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera and his wider exploration of improvised tropical music. Mazurka, baião, calypso, and funky Afro-Cuban jazz all have a presence here. Guest soloists — including the aforementioned D’Rivera, alongside Etienne Charles and Ron Blake, to name a few — flavour this Caribbean jazz gumbo which swings with enough intensity to keep your attention.


  1. More Caribbean Playlist reviews appear in the March/April 2017 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2017, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Carnival: The Sound of A People - A concert review¹

Trinidad Carnival music—its history and retention and its role in shaping our society—is the focus of musician and educator Etienne Charles' latest exploration of music in the Americas. In the context of creating increasingly interesting jazz responses to the myriad sounds and rhythms that inform Carnival music, Charles debuted parts of the still in-progress extended suite, Carnival: The Sound of a People at the Queen's Hall last Sunday.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

A Prologue to an Island Opus - Carnival: The Sound of a People at Queen’s Hall¹

In the heat and heart of the Carnival fête season when “we doh business”, Etienne Charles will allow us to imagine what creole intelligence sounds and looks like. On Sunday January 29, he will debut and preview at the Queen's Hall selections of his newest extended piece—a planned 3-CD length oratorio—called Carnival: The Sound of a People that locates the musical response of Afro-Caribbean people within this island space to the circumstances of slavery, colonialism and freedom. Adoption, adaptation and incorporation of the cultural traditions rendered with an ear to the broader musical tradition of the Americas, jazz, has allowed Charles to produce music that recognises local audiences' penchant to move to rhythm, and a global audiences' willingness to discover and be awed by the brilliance of New World African music.

Etienne Charles with 'Slim' and the
Moruga Bois drummers. © Maria Nunes
Errol Hill, in his book The Trinidad Carnival: Mandate for a National Theatre, wrote that “Carnival is inconceivable without music.” Music is indeed a central pillar of the Trinidad Carnival. Charles, with the award of a 2015 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, was allowed to research and explore the music of the Carnivalesque processions, the canboulay and j'ouvert, the drum dances, the sacred and secular music with the call-and-response led by the chantwell, and other African cultural survivals in the Caribbean from pre-Emancipation to present. He embedded himself in the communities that retain the traditions of the blue devil, the jab jab, the black Indian, and in the gayelle of the stickfighter to capture the rhythm and song of the kalenda and the caliso.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Caribbean Beat Caribbean Playlist - January/February 2017ª

Family Tree Grégory Privat Trio 

(ACT Music)

Martiniquan pianist Grégory Privat reveals in his new album of music, Family Tree, the subtle links between the Caribbean trove of rhythms and melodies and the grand vocabulary of jazz. Supported this time by bassist Linley Marthe originally from Mauritius and fellow Martniquan Tilo Bertholo on drums, Privat with his fluid playing centres the idea that the roots of jazz are firmly planted in the Caribbean creole culture that was present at the genesis of jazz. The music finds inspiration in the beguine, the bèlè and gwoka of his native Martinique and Guadeloupe. Bassist and drummer Marthe and Bertholo respectively, despite their creole backgrounds, evince the African DNA of the new world rhythms that a Caribbean perspective has produced. Privat is a fine musician with solid classical and jazz training who on this album finds the core impulse of a iconoclast to dynamically paint anew the heritage and beauty of jazz that is found in these Antilles.


Double Take Elan Trotman's Tropicality 

(Island Muzik Productions)

“First impressions are the most lasting,” is a popular proverb that makes the case for a grand debut to cement a perfect memory. Well, certainly not this time as Barbadian saxophonist Elan Trotman has recast a number of his previously released songs from his many years as a recording artist and given them a second look, a double take if you will. He has refreshed the sound and arrangements of his Caribbean-rhythm infused smooth jazz to make them shine through—to Caribbean ears at least—with the positioning of the steelpan in a more forward position. His vocals on Bill Withers' classic “Lovely Day” are direct and make one smile at the simple charm of this song. “Tradewinds” is the antithesis to a dull day in the tropics; lilting and easy to dance to. His band of fellow Berklee College of Music alumni, Tropicality, has the musical chops to make this new impression far from diminished.

  1. More Caribbean Playlist reviews appear in the January/February 2017 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2017, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.