St Thomas — Dion Parson and the 21st Century Band
Drummer Dion Parson from St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands has gathered a cadre of cohorts, fellow islanders now mostly based in New York, to re-chart the music of that island group and the wider Caribbean on their new album St Thomas. Jazz stars in their own right, bassist Reuben Rogers, pannist Victor Provost, trumpeter Rashawn Ross, and saxophonist Ron Blake (among others) join Parson in his 21st Century Band to cover a couple of island standards and define a new VI jazz sound. The title track, an old calypso made famous by island descendent Sonny Rollins, is given a new sheen with rhythms untested by the jazz master many years ago. Covering Bob Marley, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis, and providing some originals, the band uses native music forms like quelbe and broader reggae and calypso rhythms to transform the sound of Caribbean jazz into a fusion that points to a new direction.
Covers For Lovers — Triston Palma
Jamaican singer Triston Palma chose to release a set of a dozen cover tunes by pop stars and turn them into roots reggae love songs. Covering such hits as Burt Bacharach’s “A House Is Not a Home” and the Bee Gees song “Islands in the Stream”, originally done by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, this album cements the idea that love songs are eternal, regardless of which genre they are sung in. Whether a plea or a declaration, each of these songs finds a balance between hope and certainty. With production values that harken back to the late 1970s and early 1980s, when lovers rock was the rage, this album can be posited as a kind of reversal of influences, where Jamaican artists are perfecting the performance tropes that began in the Jamaican diaspora in the UK. Palma’s voice has that treacly sweet tone that makes this kind of music a favourite among lovers and others.
Groovy Love Thing — Robert “Dubwise” Browne
Guitarist Robert Browne delivers on the traditional smooth jazz output of modern Caribbean musicians by putting his electric guitar front and centre to assay the landscape of easy listening options. His is a sound and tone that can easily make fans of diehard purists. As the title of his new album suggests, the groove is solid on this set of ten instrumental tracks. The range of moods on this album spans from upbeat to contemplative. A compilation of popular Jamaican reggae songs from the past decade — including fellow Jamaican Tessanne Chin’s hit “Hideaway” and Maxi Priest’s “Close To You”, among others — gives this album an appeal that is nurtured by solid musicianship and quality production. Browne, who was the guitarist for dancehall crossover star Shaggy for a number of years, recently branched out on his own to pursue a solo career. This debut is a feather in his cap.
Lion — Trishes
Exotic young beauty Trish “Trishes” Hosein is the ultimate Caribbean-American success story: Trinidadian parents, born in Boston, raised in the islands, educated at Berklee College of Music, and now making a living as a singer-songwriter in Los Angeles. With that biography, Trishes can mine a number of influences and channel them into her music, a blend of electronic pop and ingénue stream-of-consciousness lyricism. Her new single “Lion” asserts a kind of confidence that shines through as she describes her pursuit of an out-of-reach love interest: “There’s a lion in me that wants to tear you up. / You keep running, and I can’t get enough.” This kind of pop music, succinct in its production and simple in its delivery, is energising a generation of youth all over the world. Trishes, with her enchanting voice and catchy hooks, may be among those destined to lead the pack.
Reviews by Nigel A. Campbell