New Jersey-based musician and singer D’Achee had a storied career as a percussionist and hand drummer for dance troupes and popular bands in Trinidad before settling down in the United States to begin a recording career. Seven years after his debut CD, he releases Alive as a kind of reflection on his survival after the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Centre, where he worked. On “Black Crows” he sings, “2900 die, that’s why I cry. / I keep these secrets locked up inside my head. / Oh Jah, Lord a mercy, many of friends them dead.” An album featuring a modern ethnic fusion — sans genre — of soca, reggae, Afropop, hip hop, and rock is anchored with D’Achee’s highly auto-tuned voice suggesting the surviving spirit. Lyrics contemplating joyful celebration and compassionate declaration suggest the precise reason why this album is both a commemoration and a catharsis. Put it on and dance!
Jazz Racine Haïti
As a child, Guadeloupean tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart heard Haitian vodou ritual songs played by his mother and celebrated author Simone Schwarz-Bart, as a soundtrack to their life of literary idyll in the Caribbean. That memory of the music, and his own yearning to create jazz that is reflective of his French Caribbean heritage, propelled Schwarz-Bart to first perform and later to record Jazz Racine Haïti as a document of the spiritual journey beyond Haiti all the way back to Africa. “That dialogue with silence [music] creates a doorway to the unknown.” To re-arrange vodou music for this band featuring jazz musicians and two houngans (vodou priests) was an exercise in engaging with the greatness of this music. “Legba Nan Baye” fuses, in real time, ritual music and jazz, voice and tenor sax. African-Caribbean grooves that drive this music beyond spirituality achieve a synergy where modern jazz and vodou are one.
Michael “Ming” Low Chew Tung is the architect of twenty-first century jazz recording and performance in Trinidad and Tobago, following on from mentors like Clive Zanda and Mike Boothman, prolifically producing original music to add to the local canon. Now he acts as mentor and producer for a new generation of young jazz musicians and singers with a new CD, TriniJazz Project. Polished arrangements and smooth jazz elements shouldn’t suggest any sell-out to the aesthetics of Caribbean luxe tourism or middlebrow leisure culture, but in the hands of the players — Tony Paul (sax), Rodney Alexander (bass), Modupe Onilu (percussion), Dean Williams (guitar), and smoky-voiced chanteuse Vaughnette Bigford — these ten tunes are a celebration of how we sing, dance, and live in these islands. The reframed calypsoes of Bigford, the rhythmic pulse of Onilu, and the improvised joy of the others say “trinijazz” is the definition of accomplished.
Reviews by Nigel A. Campbell