“Just the Two of Us” was
about Trinidad and Tobago...
Grammy award winning producer
and song writer - Ralph
Barbuda, W.I. -
Multiple Grammy award-winning producer, song writer and
Ralph MacDonald came to the beautiful
Caribbean island of Antigua, sister isle of Barbuda - to have some fun. What
was also very apparent from the onset was that the people of
Antigua were in for a very special treat. Ralph
MacDonald brought his A-team to town - and they were not about
to take any prisoners.
This was MacDonald’s first visit to
Antigua in his storied and wonderful career, and he made sure
the people of Antigua and Barbuda were going to remember
both him and his gang of musical Goliaths. The scene
was surreal against the backdrop of the warm Caribbean
night with the Antilles winds from the coast of Africa
providing a natural cooling breeze - under what looked
like a billion stars and planets twinkling like lights on a
Now Ralph MacDonald is one of the
nicest cats in the
music business you would ever like to meet.
He is mischievous, funny
and generous. However, he does
not mess around when it comes
to his music.
Ralph reminds me a lot
of Max Roach - in that you had better be real good at
what you do, if you are
going to be
around him. You
will never get a second chance to mess up.
The spotlight showcased
stage on percussions. To his stage front left, was the
fabulous Robert Greenidge - possibly the steelpan player with
the greatest touch and control ever. Behind Greenidge
Clifford Carter on keyboards
(also a recognized composer, who has collaborated with
George Benson, James Taylor, Natalie Cole, et al.) and bassist Nicholas Brancker. To the rear, solidly but innovatively anchoring the
powerhouse line-up was drummer
Christopher Parker, who
plays with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Paul
Simon, et al. To
the right was famed
guitarist David Spinozza (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, et
al.), who appears on MacDonald’s most
recent CD (as too does Parker),
Mixty Motions. And stage front right consisted of
his horn section made up of saxophonist
Arturo Tappin (Roberta
Flack, Courtney Pine, Monty Alexander, et al.) and
(Marcus Roberts, Roberta Flack, Ralph MacDonald, et
al.). Rounding out his team were
Nadirah Shakoor (Arrested
Development, Jimmy Buffet, Quincy Jones, Madonna, et al.) and Dennis Collins
(arguably MacDonald’s favorite male vocalist) on vocals.
This was an all-star cast
that came together on every level under
MacDonald’s direction to deliver a memorable performance
that the Moods of Pan Festival will not soon forget.
Moods of Pan Festival 2008
- Another Side of Pan
MacDonald took the audience on a musical journey through a
varied repertoire of new and past hits that sounded as
though they were being delivered for the very first time.
And this of course included
MacDonald’s signature tune,
the globally familiar musical anthem “Just the Two of
Us,” which was penned for Trinidad and Tobago, but also superbly
acclimatized to the twin-island nation hosting Moods of Pan - Antigua
and Barbuda. MacDonald’s enthusiasm, honesty and commitment to his music
is what makes it reverberate so well with everyone.
Moreover his respect for the steelpan instrument is second
to none. You will never find a synthesizer filling in
for the pan
on any of his gigs or recordings, or the pan player included as a
buried somewhere out in left field. As a matter of fact,
MacDonald keeps it “real” all the way - he does not use synths for any musical voicing in his recording sessions or
live performances, period.
Although he was born and raised in Harlem, New York, Ralph
has a Caribbean linkage throughout his career and life.
His father was the famed calypso artist Macbeth the Great.
Furthermore, the steelpan instrument has been a part of
MacDonald’s musical journey from day one. He
unabashedly calls himself a “Desperado” referring to the
legendary steel orchestra from Trinidad and Tobago.
And of course while it is still not known to everyone - as
mentioned above - his Grammy Award-winning hit “Just the Two of Us” was about the twin
Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
About the 2008 Moods of Pan festival overall, MacDonald’s
observations, interestingly enough, echoed those sometimes
expressed about events daring to focus on the steelpan instrument
outside of a Panorama setting.
Chatting with When Steel Talks, he said: “It was my first
time in Antigua, and I thought it [Moods of Pan] was
great....I would have liked to see larger audiences [given
the caliber of the event and the performers]...” He
touched on the ridiculous, practically ‘giveaway’ cost of
entry on any of the three festival nights, given the stellar
cast of artists and performances. WST has covered
other MOPs, and noted the attendance this year has not been
on par with other, more enthusiastically attended editions
of the festival.
Robert Greenidge shared the stage
with MacDonald; the spotlight bouncing off the chrome of Greenidge’s
double seconds, the
rays seeming to hit every point on Deanery Grounds, the Moods
of Pan venue - and bathing the instrument in an ethereal
glow. Indeed, Robert’s grace and
what appears as an effortless command of the instrument
often conceals the depth of his musicianship. Robert
Greenidge is one of the best players to have ever honored the
instrument. His touch is second to none.
Robert’s performances punctuated the purpose and spirit of
the Moods of Pan Festival - the best of pan celebrating the
Indeed the Moods of Pan Festival is known for its once-in-a-lifetime performances from its
great artists. Ralph
MacDonald and his gang of musical cohorts made sure their
names will be added to that line-up.
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