Pan Times

Melton S. Mustafa and “Pazz”

by Dr. Dawn Batson

Global - Across the world are stellar persons who quietly and with great dedication move the pan movement forward. Melton S. Mustafa was one such person.

A brilliant jazz trumpeter, composer, big band leader and arranger, he played with the Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Woody Herman Orchestras; led the Melton Mustafa Orchestra and Quintet; toured internationally as a soloist and started the longest running pure jazz festival in South Florida – The Melton Mustafa Jazz Festival which over the years featured jazz greats such as Dr. Grover Washington Jr., Abraham Laboriel, Dr. Nathan Davis, Dr. James Moody, Patrice Rushen, Dr. Billy Taylor, Nestor Torres, Ralph MacDonald and many others.   

He left the road to join a small group of musician/educators including myself at Florida Memorial College (later Florida Memorial University) in 1996. This small group under the leadership and vision of the Music Department Chair Dr. Alfred Pinkston, came together to change the traditional approach to tertiary music studies. The new approach would be to celebrate the practitioners of the oral traditions that produced musical genres such as jazz, gospel, R&B and the only acoustic family of instruments to be created in the 20th century, the steel orchestra. Students versed in these oral traditions were recruited to pursue music degrees that would polish their often already spectacular technical skills and enhance their theoretical skills.

Melton shared the determination of the group - to give each of these aspiring professionals (and in some cases working professionals), the tools needed to grow in their chosen field. From the first day of our first semester Melton embraced the pan. He did not regard it (as sadly so many do) as a novelty to be enjoyed and then ignored. As pan majors grew in number, he used the instrument as an integral part of the jazz band. Using his innate musicianship and skills built by years on the road, he created arrangements that skillfully incorporated the pan into the horn lines, interweaving the percussive power of the pan with the bright brass and warm woodwind. He called the resulting genre “Pazz” and it was powerful.

Today some of the pan world’s top panists gained much more than an understanding of jazz history, theory, arranging and performance techniques from Melton S. Mustafa. They learnt about humility, honesty, strength of character, professionalism, the importance of family and the necessity to be true to self. Melton S. Mustafa passed away on December 28th 2017 but the pan world will benefit for years to come from the students that are his legacy.

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