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Andy Narell


Andy Narell has spent more than a quarter century exploring the subtleties and complexities of steel pan and grafting them to the jazz idiom. He's one of only a small handful of steel pan players in the world who are playing jazz, and perhaps the only one among that coterie to commit an entire career—live and in the studio—to creating new music for the pan in that context.

In recent years, Narell has also explored the potential of the steel pan on an orchestral level. He enlisted the services of Calypsociation, a thirty-piece steel pan orchestra based in Paris, to record The Passage, his 2004 recording on the Heads Up label. That exploration continues with the release of Tatoom: Music for Steel Orchestra in February 2007. In addition to Narell playing all 22 pans in meticulously layered and carefully mixed orchestral arrangements, Tatoom also features three brilliant soloists: guitarist and labelmate Mike Stern, tenor saxophonist David Sanchez and percussionist Luis Conte. With drummers Mark Walker and Jean Philippe Fanfant driving the rhythm section Narell’s steelband sound has an unmistakable jazz groove.

Tatoom was recorded in various locales around the world, including Paris, New York, Boston, LA, the SF Bay Area, West Virginia, and Mississippi.

“This whole record was recorded one instrument at a time,” says Narell. “It was quite different from The Passage, where I recorded thirty pan players live. I started with the drums, the congas, the percussion and the iron, and then I put all the pans on one at a time. Then finally the soloists.”

This attention detail and commitment to creative perfection—no matter the scale—is nothing new for Narell, who has been almost singlehandedly ushering steel pan music into the mainstream since the 1980s. After a string of critically praised and commercially successful albums on Windham Hill Jazz throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Narell joined the Heads Up label with the release of Behind the Bridge in 1998, followed by Fire in the Engine Room in 2000. But in the midst of hammering out his career—recording in the States; playing festivals and other gigs around the U.S., Europe and the Caribbean; composing for the Panorama steel band festival in Trinidad; laying down tracks on albums, film and commercials—he was unaware of a grassroots movement taking shape in South Africa that would have a dramatic impact on his musical and cultural perspective.

The end of apartheid in 1994—which included a lifting of economic restrictions and a transition to majority rule in South Africa—allowed residents of the major cities and outlying townships easier access to recorded music from around the world. A network of “listening clubs” sprouted throughout the region as low-income South Africans pooled their monies to buy CDs of their favorite artists. By the late ‘90s, Narell had ascended to folk-hero status in a fan club he knew nothing about.

Narell collided with his own destiny in the fall of 1999 during a visit to South Africa for the Arts Alive festival, where nearly 80,000 people turned out for his performance (he’d only expected to fill a few 200- or 300-seat clubs during his visit). The response to his music was so powerful and inspiring that he returned to South Africa the following spring for an extensive concert tour that reunited him with the band he’d played with during his initial visit. Live in South Africa, released in 2001, chronicles his two-night stand at the Blues Room in Johannesburg at the tail end of the tour.


Parabbean Tales

Label: Blue Canoe Records
Released: 2022
Track listing: Parabbean Tales; Freedom, Cachete; Not Without You; 5th Avenue; Oasis; Brother Robert; DJoel & Knippa; L.A. Jam; Spally


Article: Radio & Podcasts

Vince Guaraldi, Houston Person & Kim Nalley

Read "Vince Guaraldi, Houston Person & Kim Nalley" reviewed by Joe Dimino

From the jazz queen of the Bay Area we begin the 762nd Episode of Neon Jazz with vocalist Kim Nalley and music off her album I Want a Little Boy. We follow that up with her good friend and tenor Houston Person. We hear some great new music from Alberto Pibiri, Aaron Aranita and George Winstone. ...


Song of the Day

Parabbean Tales

Label: Blue Canoe Records
Released: 2022
Duration: 03:26


EHA Paris Rio New York

Label: Kwazil/Plaza Mayor Company Serg 250
Released: 2020
Track listing: 1984(Fanfare); Mars; Missie Didie; Nuits Magnétiques; 1984(Funky Cover); 2 Stars in my Skies; Celeste A; Toronto Layover; Dudatjo; Plain Dance; Queen of my Nights.


Article: Album Review

Adan Hagley: Insomnia

Read "Insomnia" reviewed by Nigel Campbell

The Trinidad-born Nobel laureate, VS Naipaul, implied that Trinidad and Tobago was a country of mimic men, but its geographic location in the world and social history makes the pull of myriad sonic and rhythmic influences inevitable. Adan Hagley on his debut album, Insomnia, has made those connections from his wide listening palette. He cites Michel ...


News: Recording

Guitarist Tommaso Costa Debuts with “Too Far, Too Close”

Guitarist Tommaso Costa Debuts with “Too Far, Too Close”

For his 2019 debut Too Far, Too Close, Costa combines electric jazz, rock, and blues into his own guitar sound with European sophistication and style that resonates from his homeland of Italy. “My favorite thing is the sound of the record," Costa explains. “It's got a great modern tone with a vintage feel." Too ...


Article: Multiple Reviews

The Narell Brothers: Steelpan Music Merchants

Read "The Narell Brothers: Steelpan Music Merchants" reviewed by Nigel Campbell

Steelpan musician, Andy Narell and his older brother Jeff Narell represent a game change in the status quo of island music and the instruments born in the Caribbean. Originally created as an musical accompaniment to celebrate Trinidad Carnival, the steelpan has evolved over the years to become a modern acoustic instrument family that supplies a range ...


Article: Album Review

Leon Foster Thomas: Metamorphosis

Read "Metamorphosis" reviewed by Dave Wayne

Throughout the history of jazz, what once seemed to be oddball instruments have inexorably become part of accepted sonic landscape, while others have fallen into disuse. It's hard to believe that the vibraphone, flute, and violin were once seen as un-swinging, non-jazz instruments, while the banjo and tuba were considered essential linchpins of the jazz sound. ...

Article: Multiple Reviews

Jazzy Christmas - Creole Christmas

Read "Jazzy Christmas - Creole Christmas" reviewed by Angelo Leonardi

I canti natalizi si sono trasformati nel tempo da inni prettamente religiosi, derivati da laudi o ninne-nanne in onore a Gesù bambino, a pop song strutturate sul modello Tin Pan Alley, che celebrano il Natale in un'ottica secolarizzata, mantenendo i valori di amore e fratellanza. La relazione tra jazz e canti di ...


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