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Andy Narell and Relator: University of Calypso

Woodrow Wilkins By

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It almost seems required in many cases, that jazz artists incorporate other styles into their music, whether it is blues, R&B, pop, classical or Latin. Half a century ago, jazz and calypso were fused together for the first time, and now Andy Narell and modern-day calypso legend Relator revisit that relationship with University of Calypso.

Narell is perhaps the world's foremost steel pan artist, making a career of working this instrument into the realm of jazz. His studio and stage associations include a diverse range of artists, including Dave Samuels and the Caribbean Jazz Project, Spyro Gyra, Michael Brecker and Hugh Masekela. Guitarist/vocalist Relator, born as Willard Harris, is one of Trinidad's best known calypso artists.

"Gavaskar" opens the set. This festive piece features a delightful, storytelling lyric sung by Relator, with Narell's subtle underscore. The steel pan master also solos. The rest of the band is engaging, but except for Dario Eskenazi's piano solo, no member stands out.

"Food Prices" is the blues set to calypso. Rather than lamenting the loss of a job or a bad relationship turned worse, Relator chants about the high cost of groceries. In places, he quotes comments he's actually heard in supermarkets. And he does it all while the band marches along. Of particular note is how drummer Mark Walker and percussionist Pedro Martinez stand out in their roles. Narell leads during the instrumental breaks and also in the middle of the song.

Paquito D'Rivera adds clarinet to "Pan in Harmony," an instruments-only track. He and Narell trade leads early before blending into a dialogue in which the two also enjoy extended solos.

Narell, Relator and their supporting cast revisit some classic calypso songs, particularly those created by Aldwyn Roberts—also known as Kitchener—as well as some Relator originals. The result is 15 songs that are amusing, sometimes humorous and always fun.

Track Listing: Gavaskar; Love in the Cemetery; Food Prices; Pan in Harmony; Eating Competition; Steel Band Music; My Pussin; Sugar for Pan; Hold Onto Your Man; Peddlars; Bottle and Spoon; Take Yuh Meat Out Meh Rice; Pan on Sesame Street; Ugly Woman; My Brother Your Sister.

Personnel: Andy Narell: steel pan; Relator: vocals, guitar; Darlo Eskenazl: piano; Dario Eskenazi: piano; Gregory Jones: bass instrument, bass guitar; Mark Walker: drums; Marco Araya-Correa: cuatro; Paquito D'Rivera: clarinet, alto saxophone; Pedro Martinez: congas, bongos, timbales; Inor Sotolongo: percussion.

Title: University of Calypso | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Heads Up International


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