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The Maturization of the Steel Pan

 by Dr. L. Trevor Grant

Web Posted: June 24, 2004

The first annual Steel Pan Jazz Concert was held on Father’s Day at the prestigious Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center. The major musical event promoted by Abstract Entertainment, Inc. was very successful with a sizeable audience who were provided with scintillating music and near perfect fusions of calypso, jazz, samba, classical and other musical genres. It was an entertaining evening of classical renditions of past and present hits by world renowned musicians.


Steel pan and jazz musicians like Arturo Tappin, Andy Narell, Buddy Williams, Frankie McIntosh, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Garvin Blake, Liam Teague and the ADLIB Steel Orchestra provided enriching musical renditions of pan and jazz music that were well received by a very appreciative and musically rich and knowledgeable audience.  The almost-full capacity Alice Tully Hall was transposed into a feverish acoustic revolution with different renditions of steel pan and jazz music – to the enjoyment of the captive audience.


The musicians performed at a very high level and received loud, tumultuous ovations.  However, I enjoyed Garvin Blake and Ensemble’s renditions more than the others.  Blake’s fusion of calypso and jazz was well coordinated and his instrumental solos were imaginative.  Blake also seized on the predominantly Trinidadian audience by playing tunes that they were familiar with making it easier for them to sing along with him as he took them (sometimes deliberately) on a musical journey.


The Steel Pan Jazz Concert is another new Caribbean musical innovation that is gaining in popularity and is getting richer in terms of the quality of music that was generated by the top class musicians at Alice Tully Hall.  The fusion and musical mixture was extremely satisfying and showed the maturity of the steel pan.  Obviously, the steel pan has come of age and is now a leading instrument in any ensemble or orchestra.  The tenor pan is an addition to the musical richness of any orchestra and is a perfect mix with the more recognizable instruments.


The concert was excellent public relations for the steel pan movement because it was held in a posh location in Manhattan, and the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago was exposed to non-Caribbean music lovers – people who are intrigued by the new musical  instrument and want to learn more about it.  Too bad, music lovers have to wait until next year to experience the next acoustic revolution.  Obviously, there is a captive audience hungry for such enriching, entertaining music.  Could the wait be reduced?

Dr. L. Trevor Grant is the author of -
Carnivalitis: The Conflicting Discourse of Carnival (2004)

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Date: 06.24.04



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