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Master Steelpan Tuner James “Bassman” Jackman

James “Bassman” Jackman

James “Bassman” Jackman - Master Steelpan Tuner and Innovator

James “Bassman” Jackman is considered as one of the finest steelpan tuners out of Trinidad and Tobago. “Bassman” was part of the legendary team of tuners which included Rudolph Charles, Lincoln Noel, Wallace Austin, Emmanuel “Jack” Riley, Bertie Marshall and Tony Slater - that gave
Desperadoes their unique sound.

From Edger Jackman: 

“James Jackman known in Pan World as “BASSMAN” passed away Wednesday February 15, 2017 in Trinidad and Tobago.

“A very brief spotlight on “Bassman”:   [He was] born on January 1, 1938 and spent his early years, with parents and siblings in Maitagual, Santa Cruz and Quarry Road in San Juan. 

“Recently, when asked what drew him to pan and how he got started in pan, he said he sang in the church choir with his sister. He loved music and wanted to learn music at an early age but his sister got the privilege to attend piano lessons. “I was guided into shoemaking but being a big brother, I was given the responsibility to accompany her to and from piano lessons. While waiting I had no choice but to hear what she was being taught and had to practice. When I saw the music book, I understood notes and sound relationships. I made the connections.” 

“PANS:  “Bassman” was not allowed to play “that devil’s instrument [Steelpan].”  At about age fifteen he built up enough courage to go and see a panyard up close. The arranger was teaching a young man to play the bass part. The young man kept making mistakes, over and over and finally the arranger gave up.

“I knew I could play that,” “Bassman” said to himself. The courage came and he climbed behind the bass pans and played the song first time, from the begin to the end but made one mistake. The arranger came over, grabbed his hands with the bass sticks in them, and proceed to show him his one mistake rather roughly... “...So I put down the sticks and left.”

“So, the next day, when hardly anyone was around, “Bassman” says “I played the song, then added to it and I played other songs, and the things which I had learned from [my] sister’s piano lessons started flowing; soon there was a gathering and hence they called me “BASSMAN”.”

From - The Trinidad & Tobago Steelpan - History and Evolution, by Dr. F.I.R. Blake:

Tuner Wallace Austin “entered into a mutually pleasing arrangement with “Bassman” Jackman and together they tuned the entire range of Desperadoes’ pans. Jackman concentrated on the frontline pans while Wallace took care of the background pans. The partners [Wallace and “Bassman”] made the tour to Dakar, Senegal with Desperadoes Steel Orchestra in 1968, which accounted for the pans’ sweetly balanced sound.”

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