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

Monday, 9 January 2023

Island Jazz Chat: Episode 16 - Leon 'Foster' Thomas

Leon 'Foster' Thomas, contemporary steelpan jazz musician and composer from Trinidad, and at present, Caribbean Jazz researcher now based in the UK, chats on his career and the continuing journey to move the steelpan to the front of the jazz bandstand with his recordings and performances. His compositions, what he calls his "book of stories", position the instrument as a transcriber of emotions that allows for a dynamic range of sensitive touch and dexterity. His new album, Calasanitus due in March 2023, explores a range of topics that get to the heart of what Thomas sees as lives lived and the fates of people moving among the Americas. Mon, 9 Jan 2023
  • Programme Date: 09 January 2023
  • Programme Length: 01:35:39

Sunday, 1 January 2023

Playlist (January/February 2023) | Music BuzzÂȘ

Calasanitus  Leon Foster Thomas

(Krossover Jazz)

The steelpan, as an instrument to translate emotion into sound, does not get the high-profile notice that, say, a violin or piano gets. With a history of not yet 100 years, that may be inevitable — but in the hands of a master, one can hear the expressive potential of the instrument. Thomas’ rapid-fire dexterity takes a back seat to his improvisational elan on this, his fourth album, to let his compositions breathe and his guest soloists fly. The album is a tribute to his late mother and her imparted life lessons, and its songs follow a range of ideas and moods — from heartache to joy, contemplation to memory. Steelpan, piano, saxophone and trumpet dramatically converse with each other to tell stories: a parent’s sacrifice, an immigrant’s dream, the migrant’s challenges, a happy evocation of childhood, a meditation on the end of Caribbean life, and more. This mature reflection — both good and sad, all well played — makes this album a keeper.

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

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

Island Jazz Chat: Episode 15 - Richard Bailey

Richard Bailey, born in Guyana (then British Guiana), raised in Trinidad, and long resident in England, is the go-to drummer for major recording and touring artists in the UK since the 1970s. Jamming and recording with the likes of Jeff Beck and Bob Marley as a teenager, Bailey was a pivotal member of the new generation of musicians who forged a funky and jazzy new direction for British music from the 1970s onwards that reflected the rhythmic influences from the former colonies in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. His bands Batti Mamzelle and The Breakfast Band, as well as his contributions to the groups Gonzalez, Incognito, and Citrus Sun lead to solo recording work that cements the Caribbean contribution to UK acid jazz and evolves kaisojazz and Caribbean jazz towards a universal recognition at the turn of the century. Thu, 1 Dec 2022
  • Programme Date: 1 December 2022
  • Programme Length: 01:23:50

Sunday, 4 December 2022

A Coda before Christmas – A Celebration of Us

Someone chook meh for my impressions of Vaughnette Bigford's latest musical project, “RWB: A Celebration Of Us, last night at the Central Bank Auditorium: “Oh God, yuh know you and dem words nah.” I won’t be long.

Last night was necessary. It was a coda alright, but also the re-opening of our live engagement with quality, our communal face-to-face and tangible expressions of joy before the seasons of celebration where brio and bacchanal reign.

Class is class, we know that. When you have the best musicians on the island arranging and playing, and intelligence brimming from the mind of the Creole Chanteuse, you know it’s not just a succession of local songs that sometimes linger in our memories, but an investigation and revelation of the possibilities of that catalogue of Trinidad and Tobago songs that sometimes thrives here and there, or sometimes remains desolate at the bottom of the barrel of commercial appeal in these islands. It’s hard here for a songwriter; a seasonal approval, or a permanent neglect for the next new fad from Trinidad, the new tourist leggo from Tobago. The local ebb and flow of appreciation and demand is constant.

Vaughnette brought back some nuggets from an era when local musicians were battling for appreciation from foreign taste-makers, media programmers and record labels, to make it, and sometimes winning. Some migrated, many stayed and worked a system that either rewards or discards. Vaughnette brought those songs back to life. Ming (Michael Low Chew Tung), Theron Shaw and Rodney Alexander worked their magic to make them brand new for older fans, and intriguing for new acolytes to the majesty of the local songbook.

The production was near flawless. One can niggle over misspellings of artiste credits or perceived emotional disconnect during a song, but as a package, Vaughnette has set the standard for singer showcase concerts. We know that, but there was more. “Born to Shine” met “Born to Shine”: Carol Addison, the original singer, was present for Vaughnette Bigford in her space. That is huge. Roger Bonair-Agard's griot vibrations made New World African citizens, and everybody else who have ears to hear, say yes: Pan is ours, pan is Black. “We declare by the Orishas that the oil drum is Ogun’s…We declare pan, Sacred and Black!” Ray Holman strummed a guitar to recover precious local memories from two generations ago, a living lyrical portrait of us. The bhangra/soca mashup with urban Qawwali song styling of Neval Chatelal is us. The rock and roll, the reggae, the kaisojazz, the calypso, soca and elevated island pop music is us. It’s all of us. "RWB: A Celebration of Us" delivered a reminder, that we are not circumscribed by narrow ideas of who we are or can be.

As we move into 2023, let’s hope that we can continue to commercially validate what she presents, much like we did this year, and in 2021, during those windows of COVID-19 relief for gatherings. This tribe, this fandom looks to brighter things as we reclaim what we own, what we sing and play, what and who we are. The celebration continues.

I’ll leave it there for now. More in my mind, but not in my pen.

© 2022, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 23 September 2022

Island Jazz Chat: Episode 14 - Chantal Esdelle

Trinidadian composer and educator Chantal Esdelle, a Berklee College of Music graduate, holds an important place among jazz musicians in the islands, as she is one of, if not the only female band leader who is a renowned pianist there. A multifaceted individual — performer, producer, promoter — who has, since 2000, released two albums as leader with her band Moyenne, and produced another pair of live compilation albums, all on her Ethnic Jazz Club label, Esdelle has put into the wider public domain, music guided by her understanding of the African experience in the Americas that challenges Caribbean people's notion of identity, and clarifies what it means to be a New World African. Her extensive pan-Caribbean music connections serve to define "ethnic jazz" as a new standard for engagement and exchange in jazz. She chats about being and doing. Fri, 23 Sep 2022
  • Programme Date: 23 September 2022
  • Programme Length: 01:30:13

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Island Jazz Chat: Episode 13 - Andy Narell

Andy Narell, globe-trotting and pioneering steelpan jazz musician, composer and arranger chats about his beginnings in the world of steelpan in the 1960s, and the evolution of the sound that he is leading in the 2020s with a new sample library of steelpan instruments created by the legendary master tuner Ellie Mannette. And everything in between. From the West Coast of America to Trinidad to South Africa, to the French Antilles and Japan, the Narell sound and music is a standard for many on how the business of steelpan jazz performance and recording operates. Caribbean and Latin American rhythms, African pulses, post bop references all colour his music, and with a prolific output of recordings, steelpan jazz is part of the global jazz conversation Wed, 21 Sep 2022

  • Programme Date: 21 September 2022
  • Programme Length: 01:31:10