Dalton Narine on Neville Jules - UpClose & Personal!

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

Neville was a strong man, a God of the instrument. We played by his rules...

When Steel Talks Exclusive icon

“The Brass gave me a break and I stumbled through Port of Spain, where I reconnected with Neville Jules and Leon “Smooth” Edwards at the Henry Street panyard. They saved my ass..” – Dalton Narine |To Hell and Back to Pan To Hell and Back to Pan|

Indeed, it takes one to know one. And in this regard genius knows genius. In a When Steel Talks exclusive, award-wining journalist, film director and panist Dalton Narine shares an up-close moment and very personal look at the greatness, brilliance, genius and impact of the late legendary Neville Jules.

WST - “How were you first introduced to the Pan?”

Dalton Narine joined Trinidad All Stars as a teenager.  In this picture, he rehearses the band’s 1959 Bomb, “Intermezzo,” in the garret of the Maple Leaf Club on Charlotte Street.
Dalton Narine joined Trinidad All Stars as a teenager.  In this picture, he rehearses the band’s 1959 Bomb, “Intermezzo,” in the garret of the Maple Leaf Club on Charlotte Street.

Dalton Narine - “I was a Trinidad All Stars supporter among friends in School. The majority in my class leaned heavily on Invaders.

“I grew up with Bertie Marshall and Highlanders in Laventille.

“My father banned me from Pan and sent his three children to learn the art of the Piano at a friend of his on Abercromby Street.

“I had completed my exams and had plans to pursue my education in The United States.

“But one afternoon I walked out of the Piano sessions and headed down Duke Street with a friend, a Desperadoes player nicknamed Mousou. We climbed the stairs to the Garret, where Neville Jules welcomed us.

“That was huge.

“Jules taught us everything about Pan and behavior and music. We were in heaven.

“I hid the pan sticks from my father, then made friends with a host of tenor panists, particularly Rupert, a bassist and all round player.

“Neville was a strong man, a God of the instrument. We played by his rules.

WST - “As it relates to Mr. Jules - Did the times make the man, or did “the man” make the times special?”

Dalton Narine - “Both, really. I called him CAP. He pulled me aside one afternoon and warned me about listening to bands such as Invaders and Silver Stars in their pan yards or at their fetes. Many of the players were schoolmates and gorged on classroom skills in the Library.”

WST - “Was Mr. Jules truly a man for all seasons. How so?”

Dalton Narine - “CAP was a musician ready to cope with any contingency and whose behaviour was always appropriate to every and all occasions. He heard I was with friends of Invaders  at a Shell fete, and said I could be banned if I wasted my time with other bands.

Neville Jules at When Steel Talks studios
Neville Jules at When Steel Talks studios

“So I became a Lord of everything Pan that I used to survey. A dockworker and Trinidad All Stars panist, named Finnegan, took me to a musician’s home on George Street and I defined that  as a blast. My father would have beaten me up. You can’t do that to an All Star.”

WST - “In your travels and vocations  you have been around and often interacted with, greatness and genius in multiple disciplines - Minshall, Bradley, Rudolph Charles, Holman, Boogsie, Jabbar - how does Jules fit in? Is there a common thread?”

Dalton Narine - Very much so. Jules was as driven as all of them. Indeed, Jules was bigger than life.”

WST - “Does the steelband community understand the importance of Mr. Jules in the development of Trinidad & Tobago?”

Dalton Narine - “Yes, indeed. The late Silver Stars leader tried to woo me, but right away acknowledged that Jules was The Man. And I have a lot of respect for that band leader. He means a lot to me and my band.”

WST - “You have explained to WST that there could not have been a Dalton Narine that we know without a Neville Jules... Can you please revisit this?”

Dalton Narine - “Yes, yes, you’re right. One afternoon CAP sat with me inside a barrackyard on Charlotte Street and gave me the best of Pan from the Horses’ mouth. How a Casablanca player stopped by for some education of the instrument. He was blown away when CAP taught him a lesson on the teething of the instrument. How Tokyo ran away with it, believing that All Stars wasn’t true of its history.

“Of course, the Casablanca player ended his rap with “Boy, all ah all yuh is Stars.”  Hence, Trinidad All Stars. I was proud of being around with the band and the fellers. I would never have been a writer and player, what with my father always in my face. Once, I took him to a Panorama and he himself became an All Star father.”

WST - “Mr. Jules had a rare blend of  genius, creativity, humanity - yet remained humble, responsible, no-no nonsense and commanded respect. How did this play into your experiences with him?”

Dalton Narine - These are first-rate questions. I followed the band’s saga. It was easy. Can you imagine what went on in the garret? It was home.

“I mean I would hear one of his confidantes saying as soon as he gets to the piano, “I’ll bring it tomorrow.” He was speaking about a new Bomb he had for the band. They had already decided on “Caro Nome,” one of the best-ever Bombs; the band laid waste on Port of Spain. Flag that with “Liebestraum” and another bomb that Port of Spain was giggly about.  We had broken the Invaders’ lock on its “sweet Pan.””

WST - “Mr. Jules was an innovator, leader, music creator/arranger - a bonafide triple threat... Do you see in today’s world, individuals like him (and yourself) who can, and have excelled, in multiple paths in life, building legacies that benefit the greater good?”

Neville Jules
Neville Jules and Leon “Smooth” Edwards

Dalton Narine - “Yes, of course.  I certainly see Leon “Smooth” Edwards as a leader and musician. It’s why the band is so driven. I wrote a piece several years ago, when a young Leon “Smooth” Edwards sat in the gallery of his home near Besson Street and gave passers-by a concert in PAN.  They were on their way to work, nevertheless they hung on and applauded the maestro. As for me, I was always driven, not unlike “Smooth” and CAP.  “Smooth” and the Band don’t play.  They’re professionals.  Like Jules.”

WST - “What do you think would be an appropriate living tribute to Mr. Jules?”

Dalton Narine - “It’s already there. The government of Pan has it in their hands. Erect statues at the Queen’s Park Savannah so the world can recount the quality of our music and the regime of panists and band leaders who brought the instrument to life as we watch musicians around the world paying tribute to masters of the instrument and its glorification. Great friend and former panist, fellow Viet Nam Vet, Gerry Carter who lived just steps from the Trinidad All Stars panyard suggest that Jules Street be renamed Jules Place on Duke Street...

“Long be his reign all over the world, forever.”

Additional articles on Mr. Jules

  Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra playing Sparrow’s “The Lizard” - arranged by Neville Jules

Dalton Narine
About the author, Dalton Narine

Dalton Narine watched a movie among friends and was harassed for watching the credits roll. He was 12. They laughed at his quip that someday his name would be scrolling like that on a movie screen somewhere. Little did they know it was a prescient warning.

A similar scene played when Narine stopped learning the piano and walked into a panyard. Nobody believed him until they saw him playing classical music on pan on J’Ouvert. Eventually Narine co-founded the iconic PAN magazine and became senior editor.

Narine, an award-winning writer for two newspapers and a magazine, started working on a novel. But the chair of Columbia University film school steered him toward a screenplay instead. Your story is a movie, the professor said. Today Narine is working on his final draft, with two more screenplays in his head.

contact Dalton Narine at: narain67@gmail.com

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