Thursday, 10 February 2022

Kitch @100: A Caribbean Jazz Perspective

2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of famous calypsonian, Lord Kitchener (Aldywn Roberts). This iconic calypsonian added expanded harmony to the language of calypso — along with double entendre lyrics — with his compositions becoming favourites among calypso jazz musicians. Listen to a Deezer playlist of some musicians who have engaged with the Grandmaster's music. Kaiso, kaiso!

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Clive ‘Zanda’ Alexander (1939 – 2022) — a Tribute²

clive zanda albums


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An edited version of this article appeared in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday on 11 January 2022 as "Zanda’s legacy for the ages"

Six days into 2022, and we as a nation have lost two calypsonians of different generations who added to the canon at opposite ends of the season, one founding man-of-words who gave the rapso movement flight and permanence, and now this. Clive ‘Zanda’ Alexander passed early this morning, and with his passing, our music universe here in T&T got significantly smaller. Not necessarily because his recorded output would salvage the otherwise discarded memories of our islands’ music heritage, but because his passing signals a deflation of the idea that our creative industries will save us from the hell that is a post-COVID recovery. Zanda represented legacy, which in these isles is abandoned like a costume on Carnival Tuesday or a soca tune from a year before.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Playlist (January/February 2022) | Music reviewsª



Jazz Standards in the Tambrin Sauce John Arnold

(self-released)

The tambrin drum — a kind of frame drum similar to the Irish bodhrán and the Brazilian pandeiro — is indigenous to Tobago, and acts as that island’s sonic identification, as does the steelpan for Trinidad. On this new album, Tobago-born musician and keeper of the cultural flame, John Arnold, seeks a rhythmic basis and bedrock for the tambrin drum family — the cutter, (high pitch); the roller, (rhythm); and the boom, (bass) — outside of the island’s traditional festival and ceremonial dances. Six popular jazz standards are performed here, to find a new interpretation of how songs can swing when imbued with rhythms born in the islands. The indigenous reel and jig beat is used to give “Fly Me to the Moon” the “feel of the folk style.” This kind of attempted amalgamation of genres and sounds has a presence in jazz, and this experiment in fusion has merit. The conversation between cultures — jazz and tambrin — expands the possibilities of world music.

Intra-I Theon Cross

(New Soil/Marathon)

Caribbean heritage remains strong in a newer generation of British-born musicians at the forward edge of recent jazz in the UK. Theon Cross — Jamaican dad and St Lucian mum — is a boundary-pushing tuba player who is evolving the role of that instrument, and critically, reinforcing the cultural legacy of the islands as a lynchpin for a modern jazz that moves away from the blues as the music’s foundation. With that knowledge and ancestry, he improvises and fuses jazz with dub, dancehall, soca, UK hip hop, grime, and “other sounds connected to the Afro-Caribbean diaspora.” Sound system culture exudes from the sonic profiles of the ten songs on this album. The extended Caribbean, beyond Windrush, brings island ideas to global audiences. While the tuba is not generally the first instrument one thinks of as a lead, Cross has found a way to move the sound and musicality beyond comedic artifice towards ethereal reinvention.

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Love Has Found Its Way Tigana Thomas

(self-released)

In 1982, the Crown Prince of Reggae, the late Dennis Brown, released the lovers rock/R&B smooth groove, “Love Has Found Its Way”, to moderate success in the US and UK. The song has a staying power however, that proves you can’t keep a good song quiet. Guitarist Tigana Thomas from Trinidad explores the song’s potential to remain a danceable tune, whether falsetto vocals or full-bodied jazzy guitar strums take the lead. In this case, singer Jolene Romain sings the verse while Mya Scott sings the chorus refrain. The interplay between voice and guitar adds a layer of alternating sonic elements that are interesting enough to make this new cover of a classic song listenable beyond a few bars. The Caribbean “romantic getaway” aesthetic evoked by this recording reinforces a popular notion of what is sought after in these isles by tourists. If this song is part of the soundtrack of visitor engagement, that’s not a bad thing at all.

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  1. These reviews appear in the January/February 2022 issue of Caribbean Beat Magazine.
© 2022, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, 1 November 2021

Playlist (November/December 2021) | Music reviewsª

Songbook, Vol. 1 Michael Boothman

(Poui Tree Records)

Nostalgia is making a comeback: the Rolling Stones and Genesis will tour stadiums next year, and Paul McCartney and ABBA have new albums in 2021. In the Caribbean, kysofusion pioneer Michael Boothman from Trinidad is back with a bang. Boothman is an elder statesman on the regional music scene, with international standing and a professional music career spanning six decades. The appearance of a new full-length album after a gap of some years is a happy revelation that signals his creative juices are still flowing. Songbook, Vol. 1 points to the idea that this is a first step on a new journey, a fresh awakening of the Boothman oeuvre with rearrangements of classics from the 1970s like “Saying It With Music” and “Mystic Sea”, and many new songs. This album is a showcase of fine songcraft, sophisticated musical ideas, and a kind of independent production value that understands that, as audiences mature, quality never dissipates.

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  1. This review appears in the November/December 2021 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2021, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Island Jazz Chat - Episode 6: Michael Boothman

Michael Boothman is the personification of excellence in the arts in Trinidad and Tobago. Pioneering, innovative and consistently successful as a performer, composer, arranger and recording artist, Boothman continues his 50-plus year career that showcases a number of firsts and milestones in the development of modern music in Trinidad and Tobago. He discusses his kysofusion innovation, and chats about his career from his teenage combo years through to his label deal with the Clarence Avant helmed Tabu Records for his Heaven album. His new move into label ownership and new production has resulted in an upcoming album in 2021. Audio courtesy iRADIO.tt

  • Programme Date: 22 June 2021
  • Programme Length: 01:42:27

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Playlist (May/June 2021) | Music reviewsª

The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives Anthony Joseph

(Heavenly Sweetness Records)

Creole griot and poet Anthony Joseph, self-described Black surrealist, on this album directly and subliminally namechecks Caribbean literary pioneers — Sam Selvon, Kamau Brathwaite, C.L.R. James, Anthony McNeill — as a celebration of many island lives. Rising cadences on fiery recitations say “listen to this,” revealing a Caribbean literary heritage married to music evolved in its evocation. This is not the poetry of protest, but a dissertation for the diaspora. The new UK jazz heroes — Shabaka Hutchings, Jason Yarde, et al — give the music here more urgency than a Congo Square memory, more variety than the blues, altogether re-framing Joseph’s words beyond the “bluesology” of Gil Scott-Heron and the dub poetry of Linton Kwesi Johnson. The frenetic swing of “Language” balances the dub rhythm of “Maka Dimwe”. Confident, eloquent — a new classic.

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  1. These reviews appear in the May/June 2021 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2021, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 1 January 2021

Playlist (January/February 2021) | Music reviews

Bridges Jesse Ryan

(Fwé Culture)

As world fusion in jazz continually moves one away from the primary centre defined by the blues and swing, global musicians take up the challenge of improvisation over a sonic bed of native and ethnic rhythms and melodies. Jesse Ryan, a Trinidad-born saxophonist now based in Canada, joins a group of Caribbean musicians seeking ways to successfully commercialise the “West Indian accent in jazz.” On half of Bridges, his debut album, he explores the rhythmic pulse of Tobago’s native tambrin band music. Modern jazz interpolation with the sound of the tambourine drum creates a soundscape for another interpretation of New World African music. With a subdued sound mix, sublime conversations between guitar, piano, sax, and percussion become epic in intention, effective in interpretation. This brilliant album, three years in the making, is an opening statement of a new jazz artist in the diaspora reconnecting with his roots to seal the idea of Caribbean music beyond a dance accompaniment.

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Viento y Tiempo: Live at Blue Note Tokyo Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Aymée Nuviola

(Top Stop Music)

Cuba is an enigma for many travellers in the Americas. Its music salvages its imposed reputation as an outlier. Performance and its recording in global cities fortify a notion, widely recognised in the Caribbean, of the supremacy of the canon and artistry of Cuban musicians. Afro-Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and singer Aymée Nuviola, “La Sonera del Mundo” — both Grammy winners — performing before an audience in Japan, offer “a tribute to the music that flows through the streets of Havana which we grew up with.” Rumba and jazz, classic son montunos and danzonetes, boleros and ballads, and other tropical rhythms are mixed with call and response singing, jazz improvisation, percussive breaks, and dynamic piano playing to recorded elation from a Tokyo crowd. The collaboration of these childhood friends, and others, suggests Cuba’s musical history is manifestly rich.
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  1. These reviews appear in the January/February 2021 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2021, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.