Saturday 1 July 2017

Caribbean Beat Caribbean Playlist – July/August 2017ª

Shades of Life Marvin Dolly
(Self Released)

New York–based Trinidadian guitarist Marvin Dolly surprises on this debut album, Shades of Life, with a quiet contemplation of trio-playing featuring just guitar, bass, and trumpet. In an intimate setting devoid of the thump of the drum, the soloists each have room to speak clearly and emotively in this conversation among acoustic instruments. Dolly, along with J.S. Williams on trumpet and John Gray on double bass, mainly, cruises through this set of subdued jazz tunes that harken back to the cool jazz ambience of 1950s West Coast America, contrasting with the bebop bombast of New York of the same era. The music, thankfully, does not wallow in the excess of a similar-sounding ambient lounge or minimalist new-age aesthetic. Dolly’s guitar finds its full voice on the tracks “Calypsonian Dream” and “Short Letters to Mother”, solo and duet guitar pieces, respectively, that make a solid opening gambit for a Caribbean instrumentalist’s voice in the diaspora.


Sabiduría/Wisdom Eddie Palmieri
(Ropeadope Records)

The Caribbean is a trans-nation of expanded and connected diasporas. Puerto Rican heritage extends beyond its island space to include its famous diaspora citizens. Bronx-born Eddie Palmieri is a legendary Latin jazz pianist, who at the age of eighty may have delivered one of the most sonically and musically endearing albums in his career. Not that he “finally got the formula right,” but with those years of experience as a bandleader, composer, and arranger, and the “wisdom” — sabiduría in Spanish — that comes with that experience, Palmieri can pull together some of the finest talent, young and old, in jazz and salsa/Latin music to successfully and pleasingly blend the Afro-Caribbean rhythms of his Puerto Rican island “home” with the harmonically complex sounds of mainland jazz and bebop. The album also extends the fusion to include bossa nova on “Samba Do Suenho” and Cuban son on “Coast to Coast”.

  1. More Caribbean Playlist reviews appear in the July/August 2017 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2017, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

Etienne Charles - a profileª

Machel Montano and Etienne Charles.  Photo © 2016, Che Kothari
There’s a photograph floating around the Internet from about a year ago, of a dapper Etienne Charles, Trinidadian jazz trumpeter, warming up with soca superstar Machel Montano before performing a short impromptu set at the White House. President Obama could not attend the event — his loss — where the recognition of Caribbean people and their contributions to the United States reached an apotheosis. Charles and Montano embody the high pinnacle of Trinidad and Tobago’s music success in the US — and both belong to a new wave of Caribbean musicians who have honed their craft within an environment of learning and high standards.

The trumpet’s evolution and positioning as the symbol of jazz has a heritage marked by iconic figures throughout its history. Icons like Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Wynton Marsalis represent a linear history. They also represent a shift from the working-class unschooled genius to the middle-class educated musician, who have paid their dues by apprenticeship. Charles, in this pantheon in the Caribbean context, represents the modern incarnation of the jazz musician taking his craft and skill to the world.

In the Caribbean, jazz does not have as high a profile as reggae, dancehall, calypso, or soca. Despite the region’s reputation for the once ubiquitous “jazz festival” — writer B.C. Pires noted back in 1993 that there were “more than 30 jazz festivals every year in the Caribbean and most Caribbean people have never been to one.” — these islands have not offered up many global stars in the modern jazz industry. Still, the most prolific modern recording artist in the Caribbean is Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander, with over fifty albums released around the world. It’s also noteworthy that Caribbean music and musicians figure prominently in the genesis of jazz music in America. Charles carries on the tradition of regional jazz musicians who have fused their native cultural influences, rhythms, and melodies with aspects of jazz harmony and improvisation to create something new.