David Richards, a young Wynton Marsallis look-a-like, made a precocious start to his career as a headliner and producer in the live context. His recent production Bass’d on Drums; Love & Music showcased his arranging, composing and performing skills to maximum effect and proved to this jaded reviewer that he is also a fine entertainer. I had written an earlier appreciation on David, specifically on his arranging skills, so that to repeat that he is a skilled arranger would be superfluous, but it needs to be said that we are at a point in the musical history of instrumental music in Trinidad, where young players are stepping up to the proverbial podium and taking the mantle of leadership from a weakened New School generation that all but squandered the goodwill at a time when their prolific output should have made a name for itself. David, who almost quit the music business last year, walked proudly among giants. This was, in effect, a coming of age debut by a young lion; an imperfect production, but a musical masterpiece.
Let me dispense immediately with something that always gets into my craw as a paying patron to a show: the assumption by the artiste that we are home at them, nonchalant and too familiar. When an artiste goes to the marketplace, because that’s what they do in this capitalistic space, he/she must respect that audience because only superior talent and a complete package will subliminally make the case for a repeat purchase of tickets or merchandise including CDs and mp3s. Some humourless banter with an unnecessary MC edged the nerves and patience of a few surrounding patrons and myself to the point of overkill, but this was assuaged by a programme that was obviously worked over to make the best sonic statement possible. The theme of telling his story from Genesis through Inspiration to Stepping Out with David’s original compositions, was a pleasure to hear and showcased some mature production value in programming. The narrow cluster of composers/performers in the first two sections of covers gave way to the night’s highlight, Stepping Out: David’s originals.
David performed three original compositions—3 Blues & 4 Cents, John Doe and Tatudu—much to the praise of New School idol, Ming. I concur effusively. My take on these songs, and continued hope, is that we continue to record and collect original music and perform it widely, especially this jazz inflected Caribbean music with gospel overtones. Another revelation was the talent of the young musicians providing accompaniment. Two names immediately stood out for me: keyboardist Charles Ryan—only 21 years old—and Kazio Paponette on guitar. I understand they are both alumni of the soon-to-be-defunct Divine Echoes, as is David, showing that Patrick Manning’s vain attempt at musical fanfare accompaniment provided the unintended consequence of being a proving ground for talent. Both Charles and Kazio provided skilful support and showcased, when necessary, the temperament of older heads in handling improvised solos. I also understand that their beginnings happened within the environment of the church, not the shebeen of a soca yard or the woodshed of the jazz jam session.
This context for musical experience, I have noted before, lends a characteristic to the music and musician not generally associated with jazz in the American or the Caribbean sense. There is a kind of learned flexibility, a symbolic breaking of the rules to fit in that one senses must be innate, and it comes to the fore when inspired to create the majesty of music, regardless of genre. The African-American urban/contemporary gospel mode which is the base gives way to the varied Caribbean rhythms for a new take on the fusion exercise that has been taking place in the jazz milieu in the West Indies for the many years we singing Old Lady (Tay-Lay-Lay). David and company, artfully accompanied by guests like Theron Shaw, Jesse Ryan, Modupe Onilu and Dean Williams capped the musical biography with a 40 minute set of love songs with enough tabanca tunes to make a big man cry. Stephen John, gospel singer and recording artist moonlighting as the local Maxwell, had women screaming in the balcony of Little Carib every time he opened his mouth to sing lead. SONGBIRDS, look out!
After having seen and heard Bass’d on Drums; Love & Music, I am comfortable in the knowledge that many young musicians have it in them to compose and to perform at a very high professional level here in Trinidad and Tobago. The landscape for music outside of soca has reached a tipping point where there can be a sustained live entertainment business moving towards an industry. Some maintenance of standards needs to be worked on, but the future looks bright. The past has shed light on the juxtaposition of naive notions of what was expected by artistes of audiences against the hard and fast rules of commerce, slowly evolving, that forced audiences to make critical decisions such as purchasing bootleg CDs. This show is the first of a planned series of fund-raising concerts leading to a scholarship fund for enhanced education for David, and it also heralds a changing of the guard in both the performing, and critically, the production areas of Trinidad and Tobago live entertainment. Continued critical appraisal in necessary lest we all, artiste and audience fall into the stupor of undeserved accolades.
A photo-gallery of images from the performance is HERE.
Genesis: His Gospel Roots…
Alpha & Omega – performed by Israel Houghton & New Breed
Lord You Are Good – performed by Israel Houghton & New Breed
I Am Not Forgotten – performed by Israel Houghton & New Breed
Inspiration: His Influences…
Fancy Sailor – Clive Zanda
Tay Lay Lay – Lionel Belasco, Kitch
Rain-o-Rama – Kitch
Stepping Out: His Originals…
3 Blues & 4 Cents – David Richards
John Doe – David Richards
Tatudu – David Richards
Love & Music: His Passion…
Intro – I’m So Thankful – David Richards
Ascension – Maxwell
Ain’t Nobody – Rufus and Chaka Khan
I Wanna Know – Joe
Back at One – Brian McKnight
Closer I Get to You – Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway/ Beyonce & Luther Vandross
Fallin’ – Alicia Keys
When I Fall in Love interlude – Céline Dion and Clive Griffin, et al
Lost Without You – Robin Thicke
Now & Forever – Richard Marx
More Than Words – Extreme
Living For The Love of You – Isley Brothers/Whitney Houston
One Hundred Ways – James Ingram
Somebody Loves You Back – Teddy Pendegrass
Rock With You – Michael Jackson
Never Too Much – Luther Vandross
Outro – David Richards
I Feel Good – James Brown (A hyperactive to-die-for arrangement that make men sit up and pay attention to Charles Ryan and Joshua Richardson on bass.)
© 2012 Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.