The names Aldwyn Roberts and Slinger Francisco might not ring a bell in jazz circles, but trumpeter Etienne Charles' Kaiso helps to rectify that issue. Charles pays tribute to these two giants of calypso music, better known respectively as Lord Kitchener and Mighty Sparrow, and explores the fusion of Caribbean music, Latin rhythms, the sounds of New Orleans, and modern jazz, throughout this ambitious program of music.
While Charles may be guilty of trying to cover too much ground on Kaiso, that also happens to be one of the album's greatest draws. Charles creates a template of sorts during the first five tracks, with short, catchy, harmonized horn riffs serving as the entrance point to energetic solo territory, only to abandon this direction in favor of greater variety during the latter half of the album.
Mighty Sparrow's "Teresa"" marks the turning point, where multiple musical personalities begin to present themselves. The sudden presence of an orchestra, delivering a romantic introduction before Charles takes control and steers the music into a pseudo-Brazilian direction, comes as a shock after five lively small group numbers, and the surprises keep coming. "Kitch's Bebop Of Calypso" brings Lord Superior onboard to sing and play guitar, as Charles' muted trumpet channels the icons of bop that Superior name checks in the song. A second orchestral take on Sparrow's music arrives in the form of "Rose." While this number takes a little while to settle in, as the music begins in a mournful state, takes a noir-ish turn, and then paints a pastoral picture, it eventually gets to a perky place where fluttery flute, delicate, yet propulsive, percussion and charming trumpet all find a place to shine. Superior comes back for seconds, on Kitchener's "My Landlady," and this proves to be the better of his two performances.
Guest pianist Monty Alexander is impressive, as always, during all of his four appearances, but the pas de deux he shares with Charles ("Margie") is the standout. When Charles finally arrives at his last stopKitchener's "Sugar Bum Bum"he puts his calypso cards back on the table and the band signs off with some excitable soca.
Calypso jazz has come a long way since Sonny Rollins set the world ablaze with "St. Thomas," and, with musicians as talented and well-versed as Charles leading the calypso charge, it will likely continue to evolve and flourish for years to come.
Kaiso; J'ouvert Barrio; Russian Satellite; Congo Bara; Ten To One Is Murder; Teresa; Kitch's Bebop Of Calypso; Rose; My Landlady; Margie; Sugar Bum Bum.
Etienne Charles: trumpet, flugelhorn, cuatro, percussion, vocals; Brian Hogans: alto saxophone, piano (6), vocals; Jacques Schwartz-Bart: tenor saxophone, vocals; Sullivan Fortner: piano, vocals; Ben Williams: bass, vocals; Obed Calvaire: drums, vocals; 3 Canal: vocals (2); Monty Alexander: piano (5, 7, 9, 10); Ralph MacDonald: percussion (6-8, 11); Lord Superior: vocals (7, 9), guitar (7, 9).
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