It was an evening of fabulous music, a night to remember, one for the history books, a veritable “who’s who” parade from the global pan community, a “Pantastic” event at the world renowned Lincoln Center. All these are but a few of the descriptions befitting the gala concert of Steel Pan Jazz held at New York’s 1,096-seat Alice Tully Hall for a beautiful spring Father's evening on June 20th.
The upscale evening was hosted by New York's 98.7 Kiss FM's classy Lenny Green. This ground-breaking show was the brainchild of entertainment specialist Ralph k. Ramsey who, with his company Abstract Entertainment, Inc. (AEI) is committed to bringing to global prominence, superb Caribbean entertainment. With his bold entrepreneurial outing Ramsey put the pan instrument where the Pan community themselves knew it always belonged – on a world stage, as the centerpiece of attention.
The musical journey started mere minutes after the 6:00 PM scheduled start. The sound of steel soared to majestic heights inside the hall, enveloping all in the almost sold-out auditorium in melodious jazz-infused runs. The fifteen-member contingent of the normally seventy-five player strong ADLIB Steel Orchestra took the stage first. Their specially-selected Steel pan jazz repertoire included never-before heard pieces from the young but skilled Long Island-based musicians. The well-executed renditions demonstrated why ADLIB is one of the more sought after and contracted bands year-round in New York. The pan instruments sounded superb, and looked spectacular - as if right out of the pages of a glossy catalog; they were handcrafted and buffed to shinning perfection as always by leader Franklyn Mayers.
Max Roach, one the two honorees for the night was not on hand to personally receive his award due to health reasons. An emotion-filled Buddy Williams, himself a drummer of note and lifetime admirer of Roach, accepted the AEI 2004 Visionary Award on his behalf. The award recognized Roach in his own right as a jazz legend, and also his acknowledgement of the importance of the steelpan instrument.
Pannist Andy Narell was up next with his band which featured Dario Eskenazi on piano, Greg Jones on bass, Mark Walker on drums and Roland Guerrero on percussion, and opened with “Kalinda” - one of his standards. The crowd was not disappointed in their expectations as the quintet delivered a stirring session. Every time the individual members showcased their dexterity on their respective instruments – the crowd applauded appreciatively.
Following a brief intermission the second half of the concert opened with the Garvin Blake ensemble, another of New York’s best kept secrets featuring Blake on steel pan, Frankie McIntosh on keyboards, Tony Cedras on guitar and accordion, Tony “Bugs” Niles on percussions, Chris Eddleton on drums and Calvin Jones on bass. Garvin and crew had a treat in store for the audience. Included in the sextet's repertoire was the classic tongue-in-cheek ditty “Ah Fraid” which McIntosh began with a wicked intro and the crowd chimed in at the cheeky chorus line “Ah fraid pussy bite meh”; Cedras added a phenomenal accordion solo along the way in the band's last piece “Caravan.” The ensemble's performance brought the crowd to its feet in a standing ovation at the end of their stint.
The evening's second honoree Emmanuel “Jack” Riley - was recognized as one of the first great improvisational pan players and soloists, and the major influence on pan superstars of today including Robert Greenidge and Len “Boogsie” Sharpe. The worthy Riley accepted his AEI 2004 Lifetime Achievement award with words of thanks, and to immense applause from the crowd.
Next - it was the turn of Liam Teague on steel pan to bask in the spotlight; he was accompanied by Arturo Tappin on saxophone, keyboardist Onaje Allan Gumbs, drummer Buddy Williams and bassist Gary Haase. Their interpretation of David Rudder’s “Hammer” was a crowd favorite, and by nine o’clock, the band closed off the three-hour show at Alice Tully Hall.
As the crowds exited the facility thoroughly sated by the evening’s performances, and - from accounts of bystanders - looking forward to what they anticipate will be a staple in the Lincoln Center’s catalog of annual events. Steel pan had come home to a world stage.
By CP - Basement Press Release Writer
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