New York - Did you ever know Clive
Bradley? Did you ever meet Clive Bradley? Did you ever talk to
Clive Bradley? Did you ever dance, sing or listen to the music
of Clive Bradley?
As I write this I think to myself what a bummer. How dare Mr.
Bradley make me write this. How dare he not live to one hundred
and two? How dare Mr. Bradley be so selfish and die and rob us
of more years of his musical genius, his wit, charm, brilliance,
genius and compassion for the people who loved him so much.
Clive Bradley is one of the most recognized figures in steelpan
music history. Moreover, he is one of the central figures in the
modern steelpan movement. He brought a legitimacy and legacy to
the steelpan music movement as no other before him or since.
Indeed, Clive Bradley was much more than a great music arranger,
more than a great music mind. Mr. Bradley was an intellectual
that had the ability to speak the language of the masses through
his music. Bradley understood pan and what it meant in the
bigger social context. He was the people's arranger with a
legendary ability to tell their story through music.
Clive Bradley meant many things to different people. For me Mr.
Bradley was by far and foremost a teacher. I cannot think of
anytime that I spent around him that I didn't learn something
about life or music from observing him or talking with him. He
taught me how to pay attention to detail and to listen.
Moreover, he taught me the difference between hearing something
and listening to something. Hearing was simply a physical
response, but listening required observation, thought,
intellect, feeling, spirit, an understanding and a connection to
life. Mr. Bradley was both a natural and social scientist. I
remember a few years ago him telling me he was reading these
math and physics books for fun and kept them at the foot of his
bed. I've repeated this to many people who are always astounded.
Definitely a complex and technical individual. However, it was
his ability to keep things so embarrassingly simple that made
him a master arranger comparable to none. Having said that - he
once gave the frontline of a steelband I was in two notes to
execute with a peculiar phrasing that had the whole section
discombobulated for the whole night.
I was fortunate to have been able to interact with Mr. Bradley
on multiple levels. In the mid 80's I played under Bradley with
Metro Steel Orchestra. In addition he was an instrumental
influence in my approach as a producer and engineer to capturing
and recording live steelband performances for Basement
Recordings. He understood the tones, sounds, colors, and
personalities of each class of steelpan instruments and how they
impacted on the human psyche in different music keys and modes.
Moreover he understood the human interface - the pan player. He
understood the physical limitations, tendencies and psychology
of the panman. He once said to me that "women were physically
better suited for playing certain pans" because they were more
limber than men in general and could perform certain movements
easier. He also would joke that women had a better temperament
to taking instructions without creating issues, than men.
Mr. Bradley was a master story teller who used rhythm, harmony,
sound, timing and tradition like few musicians ever have, or
could. He brought us back to our roots and past, musically and
spiritually, while at the same time moving forward. As players
he challenged us and pacified us simultaneously. As fans he
filled us with anticipation every time he and one of his bands
took the stage, as we knew something magnificent was about to
He understood how to invest in the future. On many occasion to
the delight of three- and four year-olds, I watched Mr. Bradley
entertain, humor and give his full and undivided attention to
these future Bradleyites who would someday take the stage
performing another winning Bradley panorama classic. He was as
comfortable in full discussion with a child as he was in full
debate with a college professor.
Bradley is already a mythical figure whose musical deeds and
accomplishments will rightfully grow to epic proportions.
Bradley was a rock star that was comfortable in the limelight,
and equally comfortable being by himself as I witnessed this
past New York panorama season.
Among the many hats Mr. Bradley has worn are producer and audio
engineer. Nothing was as satisfying as getting that smile of
approval from Bradley as he listened after the capturing of one
of his bands, and then presenting him with the finished product.
For me this was the ultimate. We had captured another of his
masterpieces to his satisfaction. Furthermore we were presenting
Bradley's masterpieces to the world the way he envisioned and
heard them, and how he wanted them heard by others.
Mr. Bradley taught that it was okay to be confident as long as
you displayed extreme humility. He also taught us that being
educated or the best was not a license to abuse others who were
not as fortunate as you. And that striving for excellence was
not a choice, but a way of life.
The world is a better place because of Clive Bradley. His music
will live through the ages. Few have touched people so deeply as
T. John is
an engineer, musician and member of the Basement
Recordings Staff. John has performed with Metro
and Despers USA Steel Orchestras.
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