Friday 9 December 2011

Jesse Ryan: A New Jazz "Superstar"

Jesse Ryan © 2010, Jade Slinger
Jesse Ryan is humble to a fault, but his talent, even at his young age and admittedly juvenile academic level is profound, enticing the ears of those who listen with the phrasing and improvisatory ideas of an old soul. I had the pleasure of hearing this student of jazz—a Berklee undergraduate intermittently returning to the college as funds would allow—at La Casa de Ibiza at a Karl Doyle produced event last year and was immediately making comparisons in terms of long-term potential with the young lion colossus, Etienne Charles who single handedly reaffirmed my belief that one must sojourn in the centres of academe abroad to make sense and add sensibility to our native music and it's variations. Jesse's technique is there. His improvising skill is growing. His composition skill is ambitious and set for taking Caribbean jazz out of its niche of ethnic fusion to a mainsteram acceptance based on skill, talent and precedence.

This generation of jazz musicians born after the oil boom years is making a space for itself after the prolific New School generation of Ming, Theron Shaw, Sean Thomas, Clifford Charles, Sean Friday. It is my belief that this thing that Scofield Pilgrim codified as Kaiso Jazz, calypso jazz, call it what you may, was given life by Clive Zanda's generation—"Two Left", Ralph Davies, "Buddy" Williams—and enhanced by the generation of Raf Roberson, the Boothman Brothers, the late Dave Marcellin, Anise Hadeed, "Boogsie". The New School had the chops but frustratingly got the business model wrong, laying a path for the young lions of Etienne, Jesse, Tony Woodroofe Jr, Mikhail Salcedo to play and, critically, to compose and play their originals to a growing audience of discerning listeners who get this thing called jazz.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

David Richards: A Musical Director with a difference propels Gerelle Forbes to new heights

I had the pleasure on the evening of Saturday, December 3 to hear a performance by singer Gerelle Forbes in a Christmas concert at Fiesta Plaza, Movie Towne. What popped out to me as a producer of the series™, was the overall linked theme of the production that lent an air of professionalism and contemporary grace not seen in many performances by young singers these days. Kudos to her and her team, which included, for me, the star of the show, musical director David Richards. Gerelle, a natural performer at ease in front of an audience charmed, if only for as long as she, admittedly, could hold her voice at a level and intensity that speaks to me as a producer. At 60 minutes, the power was reduced noticeably. This one letdown in an otherwise superb production opened my eyes and ears to the possibilities of the female voice in Trinidad and Tobago outside of the narrow range of soca.

Fortunately, for the production, a lynchpin to perfection was musical director David Richard's arrangements of the song choices of the star singer. After a couple contemporary hits by Beyonce and others, the music segued seamlessly into a medley of Christmas-themed songs, even cheerfully transforming the Jackson 5 popularised "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause" into an a cappella barbershop quartet with her background vocalists, Elena Rawlins, Jeuelle Archer, and the magnificent Janine Charles-Farray. It worked, and well. Similarly, as the show seemed to veer into images of Christmas north of the Tropic of Cancer, these four ladies did a medley of parang soca interpolated with Kitch's perennial  "Drink a Rum and a Ponche Crema" that made the audience sing and dance. Acknowledgement of David Richards' input by the star led me to investigate what his motivation was.