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Tuesday, March 03, 2009
by The Esso Trinidad Steelband
ARC RECORDS ACS-5019 1968 STEREO
Composer Vernon Evans' conviction that "steelbands belong in the Concert Hall as well as on the streets during Carnival" prompted him to write serious music for them. His first work was "Dengue"-Theme and Variations for Steelband (Dengue Street being the street in St. James on which the practice-yard of the Esso Trinidad Steelband is situated.) He has just completed the first movement of a Piano Concert for solo piano, steelband, woodwinds and horns.
Mr. Evans' enthusiasm for steelbands is long-standing: "Nearly twenty-one years ago, at Carnival of 1947, I first heard the music of steelbands; and I can still remember the irresistible desire to dance induced by the impeccable rhythm of the players and the stimulating tone of the instruments.
My impression is that the bands of that time had no melodic instruments; they were purely rhythmical, made up chiefly of easily portable parts of derelict motor cars. Outstanding among these was the wheel hub, struck continuously with a short piece of metal (as the triangle in the symphony orchestra), and which, because of its high pitch, could be heard; many blocks away, long before the rest of the band could be seen or heard; and which, in these days, sent the blood of a Carnival follower almost to a fever pitch.
Experience in creating melodic instruments must have been going on at the time, because in the early 1950's, at the instigation of Mrs. Robert Johnstone and myself, classes for steelbands and Ping-Pong soloists were established in the Biennial Music Festival. And once the melodic instruments had been invented, with what amazing speed did the Bands develop! It seemed almost no time at all before "own Choices" Test Piece at the Festival included such pieces as Beethoven's "Moonlight SOnata", and Saint-Saens "Softly Awakes My Heart". The Bands had moved from the streets to the Concert Hall.
And now today, as a result of imagination, ingenuity, experimentation and a great deal of hard work, the steel bands have produced a quite unique medium of musical expression--created and established in a space of time so short that it is completely unparalleled in the whole history of music."
The Esso Trinidad Steelband certainly warrants Vernon Evans' admiration. The Band, twenty-six handsome Trinidadians who employ no other instruments but "pans" save for a rhythm supplement of drum-traps, cowbell aguerra, and double tumba, have turned the image of steel band music upside down.
During their Summer '67 tour, which stretched from Port-of-Spain to Montreal (and back), they performed a range of music spanning from baroque to contemporary calypso. The Esso Trinidad Steelband amazed eager audiences of the Caribbean, even though steel bands abound here. And they played to hordes of unbelievers in the United States in such pockets of sophistication as Rockefeller Plaza, Central Park and Lincoln Center Mall in New York City. Even Washington's diplomatic corps was delightfully shocked by the music of the "pans" as played in an outdoor concert in Aztec Gardens of the Pan American Union.
This unbelievable music comes, simply, from oildrum instruments. This fact astounded Canadian audiences all Summer-both residents and international visitors who attended Expo.
The Esso Trinidad Steelband have established a first in the history of steel band music. In Trinidad they performed in "BALLET TO STEEL", the first formal ballet ever to be danced to steelband accompaniment. Vernon Evans composed the music for this presentation, the choreography was created by Helena Dun.
On this recording, a most welcome "ENCORE", the Band performs more exciting tunes ranging from Classic to Calypso.
Reck Johnson, Executive Producer Bill Roncken, Producer Recorded at Bell Sound Studios, New York Audio Mix Bay Recording Studios, Toronto
FABRIQUE ET DISTRIBUE PAR:/MANUFACTURED AND DISTRIBUTED BY: ARC SOUND CO. LIMITED, 142 SPARKS AVE., WILLOWDALE, ONTARIO M2H 2V9
SPANISH EYES (Kaempfert-Singleton-Snyder-ROOSEVELT-BMI) 3:27 RONDO CAPRICIOSO 4:52 THE GIFT OF LOVE 2:21 SOMEWHERE MY LOVE 2:58 (Jarre-Webster-ROBBINS-ASCAP) 2:58 GUANTANAMERA (Seeger-Angolo-FALL RIVER-BMI) 4:36
MARCH OF THE DWARFS 3:30 SLEEPING BEAUTY WALTZ 3:37 GOVERNOR'S BALL (The Mighty Sparrow) 2:53 INTERMEZZO IN Eb (Anthony Prospect) 4:05 THE PARTY (The Mighty Sparrow) 3:32
Editor's note: Hugh Borde, the Captain of the band, is now a resident of Ypsilanti, Michigan. He emigrated from Trinidad in 1976 and still carries on doing shows with the band. Apparently they will be playing The Great Lakes Folk Festival this year and surely other shows as well.
I found this record along with "CALYPSO CHRISTMAS" at a sale today but since Christmas is a while away I slapped this one on the turntable. Truth be told, I'm kinda in the mood for a bunch of Christmas records, but I'll keep that one un-listened to until around Thanksgiving. It gives me goals.
This sounds a lot like classical music in a way. I mean this as a compliment. The problem with that is that it sounds like classical music! I was kind of hoping for something like Mike Alexander & The Steel Potters which is overtly kettle-drummish. I kind of prefer the gawdy LPs. That's okay though because it's still fits here and is of interest. Start banging your heads you spooning sycophants.
I came across this record on a few blogs and managed to track down some audio from WFMU's site. I would love to hear more from this honky-tonkin' caterwaulin' queen. Listen to the tracks below and I think you will too!