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 recording 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.

Saturday 1 July 2023

Music buzz | Reviews (Jul/Aug 2023)ª

Caribbean Beat Jul/Aug 2023

47 On Strand  Élan Parlē


The album title references an address in Cape Town, South Africa, and a point of reflection and unique perspective for a Trinidadian wanderer there. In this instance, that explorer is the architect of 21st century kaisojazz (calypso jazz): Michael Low Chew Tung, élan parlē, himself. From his vantage point, literally in a hotel across the street, he mined the influences gained from seeing, hearing, and being there. The energy of the street, the vista of Table Mountain in the distance, the percussion and sounds of a distant Africa move his compositions towards a new centre for musical innovation. Continuing the exercise of expanding the vocabulary of kaisojazz — begun in his 2013 album, I Am Élan Parlē — the music here occupies a contemporary jazz profile. Tunes like “Load Shedding” and the title track don’t burden the listener with complex solos, but marry the sonic aesthetic of island elegance with a modern African presence for expanded possibilities.

  1. This review appears in the July/August 2023 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2023, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Friday 26 May 2023

Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival 2023 – a review series²

Saint Lucia Jazz 2023

Once again, the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority invited me and facilitated my coverage of its signature festival tourism event, the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, for the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday. Old friendships rekindled and new adventures encountered as this mammoth event has grown, and approaches its optimal dimensions. As far as Caribbean music festivals go, Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival is defining what is possible regionally, and settling in among the top global music festivals, jazz and otherwise. Here are the articles:

Monday 1 May 2023

Playlist (May/June 2023) | Music Buzzª

Traces  Etienne Charles

(Culture Shock Music)

One result of migration, forced and voluntary, is a blossoming of new music cultures. On his new album Traces — a limited edition in both vinyl and CD — Trinidadian jazz musician Etienne Charles continues his exposition of “New World” stories through music genres born where disparate peoples meet. Charles finds catalysts for composition in his colleagues’ origins. Performed here by a stellar quartet — each member with a different birthplace — playing cello, cuatro, double bass and trumpet, this album’s music reflects their individual cultures and traditions. Antillean waltzes and biguine from the Caribbean, festejo, merengue, joropo and choro from South America all provide sonic connections to tales, tributes and the legacies that define an expansive Creole soul. Charles the musician is the fortunate traveller who gloriously and majestically adds to his oeuvre by mining his African sojourns, his Latin American expeditions, and his Caribbean recollections and discoveries.

• Vinyl copies of this album are available exclusively here.
• CD copies of this album are avalable exclusively here.

  1. This review appears in the May/June 2023 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2023, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

After COVID, a return to island jazz

This article appears in the March/April 2023 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine as “A return to Island jazz.”

The COVID-19 pandemic over the last three years wreaked havoc on island tourism and decimated the live music industry worldwide. A nexus for live music and tourism in the islands is the enduring island jazz festival, set for a reintroduction, a rebound and a reset in 2023. 

In the Spring 1993 issue of Caribbean Beat, writer BC Pires noted that there are “more than 30 jazz festivalse very year in the Caribbean and most Caribbean people have never been to one … And there is a good reason for this: most people in the Caribbean don’t really need jazz — they’ve got perfectly good music of their own, thank you.”

However, 30 years beyond Pires’ declaration, perpetual in-the-red economics, ageing demographics, and changing tastes have diminished the faddish-ness of the island jazz fest as a dreamed-of getaway — whittling down the “more than 30 jazz festivals” to fewer than a dozen.

Monday 16 January 2023

Island Jazz Chat: Episode 17 - Jacques Schwarz-Bart

Jacques Schwarz-Bart, from Guadeloupe, can be considered a Caribbean jazz explorer who is mining musical histories and creating new experiences based on tradition, heritage, spirituality, and a full understanding of the Caribbean legacy of being at the centre of many cultural moments in the Americas. His dual Afro-Caribbean and Jewish heritage has allowed him to make bold musical statements, both live and on record, that re-chart the ruins, and to place in the wider public consciousness the music of Haitian Vodou, Guadeloupean gwo ka rhythms, Hebrew liturgical chants, and other creole spiritual conversations all resonating with a jazz vocabulary. From neo-soul and jazz to introspective takes on the spectrum of African diasporic music and retentions, Schwarz-Bart continues to expand the Caribbean Jazz footprint globally with tours, recordings and teaching. Tue, 10 Jan 2023
  • Programme Date: 10 January 2023
  • Programme Length: 01:31:32