Friday 1 March 2024

Music Buzz | Reviews (Mar/Apr 2024)ª

Gentle Touch  Reginald Cyntje

(Self released)

On this his seventh album, Reginald Cyntje — pronounced SIN-chee — continues his musical exploration of emotional themes and the intangible through instrumental jazz. With his trombone as lead, this US Virgin Islander explores in a quiet contemplative way the vulnerability of being in love. “Vulnerability is key to authenticity,” he says. “Being vulnerable takes strength, courage, and emotional intelligence. A gentle touch.” That gentle touch is revealed in five tunes on this short EP. They sashay smoothly, and exist within a fine balance of subdued tempo and an earnest reach for moods that showcase languid tropical vibes through bossa nova, reggae, neo-soul, and jazz. Celebration, hope, empathy, the memory of the first time, and growth are the themes highlighted here. Excellent musicianship by his quartet takes centre stage; Allyn Johnson on piano shines. An island perspective on love is always welcomed. Inspiration and reflection are encouraged.

  1. This review appears in the March/April 2024 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2024, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday 17 February 2024

Island Jazz Chat: Episode 19 – Garvin Blake

Garvin Blake, pan jazz musician based in New York has re-discovered his intention to preserve and promote the idea of steelpan and jazz as global music. After a pair of significant albums in 1999, Belle Eau Road Blues, and 2015, Parallel Overtones, Blake is now in a place in his life to continue to record and let the music of the steelpan be the 'new voice' in the conversation that is jazz. Island Jazz Chat catches up with Blake on this annual Carnival return to Trinidad to speak about his career, his work with South African Tony Cedras, Vincentian Frankie McIntosh, and a number of important American musicians on the creation of new music for jazz ensembles with a starring role for the steelpan.
Sat, 17 Feb 2024
  • Programme Date: 17 February 2024
  • Programme Length: 01:15:47

© 2024 Jett Samm Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Etienne Charles: The Road March in Concert – a review²

An edited version of this article appeared in the T&T Newsday as, “Etienne Charles celebrates road march history in concert"

Etienne Charles’s engagement with the Carnival and its music is ongoing — his albums Kaiso (2011) and Carnival: The Sound of a People, Vol. 1 (2017) and the subsequent live performances here, the evolution of Carnival music on the road with his music/masquerade band Riddim, Brass & Mas, his recording kaiso/soca collaborations with Kes, Terri Lyons, David Rudder — and on Thursday, February 1 at Queen’s Hall in Port of Spain, he delved deeper into the magic of this music that moves a society and defines celebration. The Road March in Concert was a review of those songs that are the most popular song on the road, at Carnival competition spaces, in fetes.

The concert began as a historical showcase of the chants, lavways and leggos of Emancipated folk, and almost sequentially moved towards a veneration of popular calypsos and soca tunes, highlighting the personalities who made these Carnival music hits. It was a timeline; what began as a contemplation of music history, ended in celebration and the cheeky marketing of Charles’s 2024 Carnival band, Magnificent. And that was a good thing as it targeted the two aspects of an audience in search of Carnival entertainment outside the sweaty jam of modern fetes. That juxtaposition of contemplation and celebration is at the heart of Carnival and was the ultimate ethos of the event. 

Monday 1 January 2024

Music Buzz | Reviews (Jan/Feb 2024)ª

Of Love & Life  Ava Hutchinson

(Self released)

Ava Hutchinson is a treasure in her native Trinidad and Tobago, carving out a niche as one of the few female jazz pianists leading a band. On this, her debut album, another side of Hutchinson is revealed: she is a talented composer, brave enough to bare her inner self in lyrics that transcribe her life and loves, good and bad. The melodies are noteworthy with a keen sense of style, and are enhanced by a production from innovative producer Roger Israel and a crack cohort of local musicians. That support becomes necessary to move the music towards a point of distinction, allowing the 18 songs here to provide a clearer picture of Hutchinson’s life. We are no longer left to wonder. Musical autobiographies can either be rigid relaying of facts as rhyming couplets, or figurative lines that allow listeners to fill in some blanks. This album captures a life with lyrics that sing, with words that neatly identify remembered relationships and emotional ups and downs. Revealing.

  1. This review appears in the January/February 2024 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2024, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Music buzz | Reviews (Nov/Dec 2023)ª

Re-Potted Jonathan Scales Fourchestra 


The angular harmonies and rhythms of modern jazz fusion present a rare context for the steelpan to interact, to play to its potential, to exist. Jonathan Scales is an American musician and composer recently transplanted to Brooklyn, New York. And in his hands, the instrument — in the company of his trio’s sublime bass and poly-rhythmic drums — heralds another way to engage with one’s soul outside a Carnivalesque celebration. On this, his eighth album of steelpan jazz, he explores “what it means to ‘uproot and replant’ into a more expansive yet more challenging environment”. How that translates on the instrument is a heady mix of musical modes, melodic adventures, and varying soundscapes — rap, wordless vocals, found-object percussion, strings and horns — where challenging rhythmic changes make for a focus on how this juxtaposition of instruments brings resolution to a journey. Steelpan, “the audacity of Creole imagination”, has evolved beyond the islands.

Live in San Francisco, vol. 1 Etienne Charles

(Culture Shock Music)

Prolific recording artist and composer Etienne Charles is taking his Caribbean jazz trumpet to important venues to play to audiences everywhere the music gleaned from the wanderings of his Creole soul. The Black Cat, “in the historic jazz district of Tenderloin in beautiful San Francisco”, is the setting for the recording of a live album that excerpts his Carnival opus; charts the arc of Caribbean composers Lord Kitchener, Bob Marley, Winifred Atwell, and Juan Tizol; and incorporates his new composition, “Greenwood”, which elucidates a monumental episode in American history. “Greenwood” musically translates the violence, chaos, angst, and pathos of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre against African-Americans in “Black Wall Street”. The wilful attempt by others to erase this history is countered here by transcendent musicianship and sound recording clarity that enlivens excavated histories and recalled stories from survivors. One can’t wait for Vol 2.

Album available exclusively from the Etienne Charles website

Mango Hugh Masekela & Siparia Deltones (Single)

(Monk Music/Gallo Record Company)

Sitting under a fruit tree has been inspirational — for centuries. The story of Isaac Newton under an apple tree coming up with the theory of gravity is apocryphal. For Trinidadian jazz musician Carlton “Zanda” Alexander, a mango tree was the key to a composition that celebrates tropical idyll. Sitting under de mango tree / Watching baby mangoes fall / Making room for more to come, with tiny stems and all / Suddenly, I heard a song / Dancing through the leaves / A lonely mango fall. That song has taken a long journey to release. A decade in the making, a musical project (From Siparia to Soweto) among Zanda, the iconic South African flugelhornist “Bra” Hugh Masekela (1939–2018), pannist Akinola Sennon and his steelband Siparia Deltones in Trinidad was a major collaborative cultural event on the island. With its soothing, twee, island vibe, this lilting Caribbean ballad sung by Masekela is a hopeful entré into the long-awaited album’s release.

  1. These reviews appear in the November/December 2023 issue of Caribbean Beat Magazine.

© 2023, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday 28 September 2023

Island Jazz Chat: Episode 18 – Etienne Charles

Etienne Charles
is a creole soul. A Caribbean intellectual and sublime musician who positions the "native gaze" to reflect a new perspective to the wider Americas beyond a boundary. From Trinidad, with a trumpet in his hand and a rhythm in his veins, he has, over an 18-year recording career, observed and composed music that "re-charts the ruins," excavates supressed histories, and elevates island ideas over metropolitan ideals. Post-pandemic, he was busy with his "San Juan Hill: New York Story" commission from the NY Philharmonic, and the release of 2 limited edition albums: unique quartet music, Traces, and a live recording of his Creole Soul band in San Francisco where a new piece recalling the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre had its debut. With more recordings to come, the creole soul never sleeps. Thu, 28 Sep 2023
  • Programme Date: 28 September 2023
  • Programme Length: 00:58:56

Friday 1 September 2023

Music buzz | Reviews (Sep/Oct 2023)ª

The Lone Pilgrim Woods 


Trinidadian Wilfred Trevor Woodley — “Woods” to his friends and associates — was a prolific composer, and innovative jazz musician, whose oeuvre was disappointingly never professionally recorded before his death in 2010. His life was one of pioneering creativity, and unfortunate personal tragedy. Beginning with his calypso jazz innovations in the early 1960s UK, he was shunned by media there. And for his audacity to marry a white socialite, he was possibly framed for an uncommitted crime. Aptly titled The Lone Pilgrim, this new three-song EP begins the worthy task of bringing his unique compositions, possibly in the hundreds, to the world. These songs retain the magic of surprise that is a hallmark of jazz, and centres the impetus around an Afro-Caribbean base of rhythm and instrumentation; Jason Baptiste plays steelpan here. This is a heritage keepsake and the start to a promised tribute collection by this international band of devoted musicians.

Live Mario Canonge Trio

(Aztec Music)

This live album by Martiniquan master pianist Mario Canonge and his fellow high-accolade Antillean musicians — Michel Alibo on bass and Arnaud Dolmen on drums — is a record of possibilities to make the Creole universal. Canonge is a singular icon in jazz circles here in the Caribbean and in France (where he is now based), who has the ability to incorporate the French Antillean rhythms and melodies into a jazz setting that is admirably effective in bringing the region’s music onto a global stage. This new album, his 17th, brings these talented, individual musicians into a collaboration that emphasises their ability to subtly make zouk, gwo ka, bélé, and other French-Caribbean grooves and genres a base for improvisation. Tackling some of his previous compositions alongside new ones in this trio format demands individual talent to shine, yet makes space for sublime musical conversation. One hour’s worth of Caribbean elegance.

Kula Wroko Kibri Fra Fra Sound

(Pramisi Records)

Fra Fra Sound is an instrumental jazz big band — born in Suriname more than 40 years ago and now resident in the Netherlands — which utilises the native genre kaseko (a complex fusion of styles derived from Africa, Europe, and the Americas) to make its music a tangible tribute to the ethos of Caribbean celebration. The marketing blurb tells us that the album’s title “stands for the process of navigating, creating, documenting and continuation.” Effectively, this new album touches on the musical range of the band over its history, and signifies that the music is still evolving, and still moving people here and there to dance. Songs sung in Surinamese Creole (Sranan Tongo) invite new listeners to discover the richness of Caribbean culture and language. At a deeper level, this album’s music, we are told, is a contemplation of 150 years since the abolition of slavery in Suriname and the Netherland Antilles and, inspiringly, a reflection of another Caribbean.

  1. These reviews appear in the September/October 2023 issue of Caribbean Beat Magazine.

© 2023, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.