New York, USA - The one thing there was no shortage of at the 2019 Brooklyn Steel Orchestra (BSO) Summer production of ‘Pan Is Sweet’ at the Roulette Intermedium, was great memorable music performances.
The BSO show producers again hit the nail on the head when they asked Pan standout, Leon Foster Thomas, to give a live performance in tribute to the late musician and global ambassador of the steelpan instrument, culture and music - Ken “Professor” Philmore. And of course, the collaborating of the extraordinary musical mind and talent of Khuent Rose (himself an outstanding panist, and much more) on piano with Thomas, was indeed a brilliant move. It was a total Leon and Khuent experience.
This was not going to be your routine guest appearance, as Thomas explained in his opening monologue; Philmore was a personal friend who had a profound impact on his career path. Seeking to translate and project the generosity, thoughtfulness, pain and joy he experienced through his friendship with “Professor” while embracing the working mantra of “giving the people what they want.” he settled on the world popular “Pan By Storm” from the extensive song catalog of Philmore hits.
Beyond excellent musicianship, it was about that critical conversation between the musician and live audience. An exceptional interpretation, rendition and execution - that is what enthralled and mesmerized the audience - as no doubt did vivid images of their own memories of “Professor” flashing through their minds.
The rhythmic interplay between Thomas and Rose was lit. Pan and Piano - Ivory and Steel... Simply, answering the question “What-cha saying?” and the response - “I hear ya!”
Khuent Rose & Leon Foster Thomas at ‘Pan Is Sweet’ 2019
From an abundance of stimuli -- Ragtime to Gospel to Funk to Soul to Calypso - from Scott Joplin to Gamble and Huff to the Pointer Sisters to the Lord Kitchener and the Mighty Shadow - Rose and Thomas let you know what time it was. It was ‘“Professor’s” Time’ - as the duo unapologetically weaved seamlessly through a host of genres that was a history lesson of who we are and our musical journeys, through the musical soul of the man known as “Professor.”
While locked within the confines of the western music tonal systems - rhythmically Thomas and Rose (also two of four judges at the show) have absolutely “no behavior” or restrictions. And they let us have it big-time. When the last notes sounded there was a spontaneous standing ovation and resounding applause. A proud Ken Philmore and a host of ancestors were surely in the house leading the heavenly cheers.
A fitting tribute to the legacy of KPF.
Well done Leon and Khuent. Well done BSO.
** Neumann KM 184 used by Basement Recordings to capture the tenor performance of Leon Foster Thomas, along with the Zoom H6 for room ambience
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