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2010 Autumn Leaves on Steel

Review by: Nathalie Taghaboni
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Duvone Stewart at the 2010 Autumn Leaves on Steel in Toronto
Duvone Stewart

Toronto, Ontario - Writing a concert review entirely in superlatives may seem overdone, even sycophantic. Yet all those who attended the 2010 Autumn Leaves on Steel in Toronto would agree that each of the four soloists and the band that backed them, were nothing short of superb.

The event is one of two shows produced each year by a group called the Pan Arts Network (P.A.N.). The first show was held twelve years ago at winter time. It was aptly called Snowflakes on Steel. Then, as demand grew for this sort of entertainment, a second show was staged in the Fall, Autumn Leaves on Steel. Over time, each show developed its own nature – Snowflakes showcasing orchestral music, while Autumn Leaves gave itself to soloists and jazz ensembles. Even more recently, there is a third event called Praise on Steel.

Dane Gulston at the 2010 Autumn Leaves on Steel in Toronto
Dane Gulston

P.A.N. is comprised of five pan aficionados and panists extraordinaire in their own right - Elton Jones, Andrew Jackson, Ivor Picou, Earl LaPierre Jr. and Wendy Jones. These five indefatigable people work year round in the steelpan community in Toronto and bring only the finest pan players to the stage.

Saturday’s show saw the crème de la crème of the world’s tenor players take the stage to transport the audience to a place where brilliant music and inspired delivery held sway and there was nothing but pan, sweet pan.

The panists were accompanied by the Liamuiga Project, a five man group of exceptional players on saxophone, keyboard, bass guitar, drums and percussion led by Bruce Skerritt. Even with the four singular styles of players - Andy Phillips with his unique style of ramazhay;  Darren Sheppard with his honeyed turn of musical phase; Dane Gulston with his frenetic brilliance and Duvone Stewart, the “Pavarotti” of the tenors -  Liamuiga Project held their own and stepped up unerringly to the musical challenge.

The concert began with Toronto-based Andy Phillips. He warmed the chilly October night with that ageless melody “Summertime,” then turned the heat up a notch with “For the Love of You.”  Andy delighted the crowd by adding his voice to the delivery and his second piece included an arrangement that offered some Caribbean-flavoured switches in melody.

Darren Sheppard at the 2010 Autumn Leaves on Steel in Toronto
Darren Sheppard

There was only a moment or two to exhale before the MC brought on Darren Sheppard who laughingly called himself the “love man” and who proceeded to thrill the listeners with several romantic ballads and smooth jazz selections. Darren then moved into full-bodied jazz form with the Liamuiga Project never missing a beat, causing the audience to burst into applause time and again.

After a short intermission, Dane Gulston arrived to set the stage on fire in a style all his own. Shock wave after shock wave of energy and movement and blinding speed as he called his steelpan and it answered. As if that were not enough, three more types of percussions were brought on stage for Dane to reveal his formidable skill on the congas, traditional iron and snares.

Duvone Stewart - in a word - inimitable. What more can one say of this gifted composer and arranger? He played his tenor, he sang, he joked with the crowd and even glided a few dance steps as he gave a most memorable performance. During his renditions of the Maxi Priest version of “Wild World” and Bob Marley’s “Jamming,” the audience was completely involved as they clapped and sang along.

The evening delivered on its promise to bring extraordinary pan jazz-styled music to listeners. The venue in Toronto’s east end was more than suitable for the occasion; the auditorium’s acoustics and lighting were above reproach and patrons were well rewarded for attending.

Contact: Nathalie Taghaboni  Commess University  www.commessuniversity.com - info@commessuniversity.com

All pictures by Nathalie Taghaboni

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