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           Date: 04.17.05

A When Steel Talks Exclusive!!

Desperadoes Win This Round...
Bradley prevails in
Pan In the 21st Century

In what was generally considered a toss-up, Desperadoes Steel Orchestra took first place in the April 16 Saturday evening competition, while Panorama winners Phase II Pan Groove had to settle for second position.  The difference was a mere three points, with Desperadoes amassing 288 to Phase II's 285.  Sound Specialists of Laventille were in third place with 278 points.

Lovers of the steelpan art form got two shows for the price of one when the organizers, Pan Trinbago, decided to combine both Pan Down Memory Lane, which featured twelve Single Pan Bands, and the Pan In The 21st Century event in which thirteen bands with a minimum of forty, and maximum of fifty musicians performed.   Extremely poor ticket sales for the Friday night Single Pan show reportedly led to this decision.   Ultimately the winners were the pan music connoisseurs who graced the Grand Stand at about seventy-five percent capacity, for the double pan-concert. 

In Pan Down Memory Lane La Horquetta Pan Groove with Duvonne Stewart's arrangement of J. C. Lodge's Someone Loves You Honey took first place honors.  World Wide was in second position, and Ice Water Pan Ensemble (the single pan band incarnation of conventional Merrytones Steel Orchestra) had to settle for third place.  The latter had been in the lead coming out of the preliminary phase.  The show got underway shortly before 7:00 PM, a bit later than the advertised 6:00 PM start.

In an exclusive follow-up with Clive Bradley, arranger for Desperadoes, the ace musician told When Steel Talks that "in all my experience, I was never called upon to do that type of work, changing tempos and stuff.  The selection (the version I worked from) was made for that type of thing.  In the [John Legend] video, the guy is playing a piano, and there is a bass and a drum as well, and the guy is singing his ass off.  And there are only three chords in the whole tune, but the way he [John Legend] put the chords together, it suited my liking.  It was the first time I had done that type of work, and everybody seemed to be enthused.  The band did a good job." 

Asked about the choice of song, Bradley said "I was in a taxi one night, and I heard it."   It is clear that Bradley likes to do his own work, and not use already existing arrangements as a base.  "I did that tune because it was simple, and it had little or no orchestration.  It gave me the bare minimum which is what I like to work with."

Bradley said that he started working on the piece two weeks before Christmas 2004, and finished it on New Year's Eve.  In the weeks after the national Panorama competition, the focus turned toward working with Desperadoes on the music, making adjustments as necessary. 

Playing Michael Jackson's Billie Jean,  second place winners Phase II players took the stage emulating the Gloved One with gloves of their own, and put on a show to remember.  The result was terrific - with awesome visual as well as audio impact.   It is safe to say that Phase II and Desperadoes were among the crowd favorites for the evening.   After each performance, the roars of approval for these two legendary bands were among the loudest heard.  Leader and arranger Len "Boogsie" Sharpe wove his magic wands, or in his case, pan sticks, and the spell was completed by the band's fabulous delivery.  

Chatting with When Steel Talks  (at in yet another exclusive, Boogsie said that "he was very happy for Bradley and Desperadoes."  The two arrangers are part of Trinidad's steelpan history and have always had respect for each other's work.  Phase II took the stage with the full compliment allowed - fifty musicians.  Boogsie acknowledged that Phase II could have fielded more than fifty players, had the rules allowed, such was the level of enthusiasm.  The arranger said that the "vibes were just great" and that the "players really enjoyed the tune;" they had expressed preference for the Michael Jackson song, and he just went with it. 

But perhaps the greatest triumph of the evening belonged to Sound Specialists of Laventille who performed the Spyro Gyra classic Morning Dance arranged for the band by Cary Codrington (leader of Trinidad's first family of pan, The Pan Family).  It was Sound Specialists' highest placing to date in the competition.  Codrington said that the band was happy coming in third place, as they were in seventh position going into the finals. 

In 2004's Pan In The 21st Century competition, Sound Specialists placed seventh overall, and back in 2003, they missed the finals by one point, beaten into thirteenth place; they had needed to come in the top twelve to secure a place in the finals.  This rise from year to year by the steel orchestra is one that the musicians and Codrington, who has been arranging for the band for the last three years, are justifiably proud of.

The arranger shared with When Steel Talks  exclusively, what he thought worked for the steel orchestra, as they drew a playing position of number four, taking the stage immediately after Trinidad All Stars - in his own words "I thought that it would have been a good chance for us to create an impact, because All Stars is one of the top bands; so - coming after them, if we could out-perform All Stars then we would be among the first three bands.  So I guess it worked for us."

Sound Specialists has a large number of young musicians who account for about eighty percent of their membership, according to Codrington.    Morning Dance was his choice, as he wanted to do "a big song that would compete with the top bands, you know, Desperadoes, Exodus, Phase II, All Stars, to create that sort of impact we were looking for" as he put it.  He went on to say that the members loved the selection, especially the solos, for the bass, cello and guitars, "they were rearing to go" Codrington laughingly said.  The steel orchestra took the stage with forty-seven musicians.

Cary Codrington also extended his thanks to the Laventille community for the support they gave the steel orchestra, his family including his wife and children, and the Sound Specialists players and band management for the hard work they put in, especially during the final week.

Another year, another great pan show has gone into the history books.  It is said that the producers of the 2005 Panorama CDs, Trinidad's Kenny Phillips and WACK FM, recorded the night's performances, and that  CD(s) are expected out.  When Steel Talks  will keep you abreast as to if and when they become commercially available.

by C. Phillips, Basement Press Corp.
2005 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved

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