Spice Island Eddie Bullen
(Thunder Dome Sound)
Smooth jazz is a music genre that purists love to hate, but in the Caribbean, it is increasingly becoming the pleasing soundtrack of resort life for fortunate travellers in search of sun, sand and sea. Purity be damned when there is a market for the slick and increasingly popular sound in these isles. Toronto-based Grenadian keyboardist and music producer Eddie Bullen, says that this album “is a musical reflection of [his] life as a teenager growing up on the ‘spice island’ of Grenada,” but it can also be seen as a catalogue of all the smooth jazz tropes that have marked the music for either fame or disdain. Piano trills, ubiquitous programmed synths, chill vibes, funky motifs; they are all there. Spice Island is a metaphor for an idealised Caribbean vacation. Sure handed production values that augur well for this album to be a call card for jazz cruises makes this a listenable treat.
For One To Love Cécile McLorin Salvant
(Mack Avenue Records)
Haitian pride remains intact despite generations of miscegenation and migration. Jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant notes that with pride: “I was not at all raised in an African-American family culture. My dad is Haitian, mom is French-Guadeloupean, and in Miami [where she was born], on top of that, we had more of a Caribbean vibe.” Heritage and identity are touchstones for conversations among others, but the music on this third album by Salvant speaks to an all-encompassing American heritage: jazz. Depending on your perspective, this album can either challenge expectations or satisfy the soul as she continues her efforts at mining the early songs of the genre to create new impressions for new audiences. Five originals balance this set of veritable unheralded standards from a bygone era cementing this album as a new recipe for jazz singing. Recasting love songs and imbuing new meaning to a jaded lyric is Salvant’s goal. Well played.
Jab to the Future The Pew Pew Pews (Single)
The Pew Pew Pews is an experimental collaboration between electronic music producer Disko Pigg and artist Kit Joseph “to create a performance based project which integrates illustrative art, music & VJ elements at its root level.” Jab To the Future is their first single, and this pair of Trinidadians have placed into the media landscape, a veritable amalgam of disco, rapso, j’ouvert rhythms, funk, and soul—they call it nudisco—that situates the Caribbean as a cauldron for modern EDM creativity. Working with soul singer John John, rapso artist Curious Ringo and electronic producer and singer Kattronique, this gem harks back to a sound that was in vogue in the 1970s, yet has a production value that says “hello 21st century, I am alive and looking at the future.” Shifting tempos easily between the rhythm of the word and the rhythm of the disco, this tune has the effect of facing insights and freeing inhibitions.
Body Talk KES featuring Chris Hierro (Single)
KES (formerly Kes The Band) are musical shape shifters that know how to adapt to changing times and circumstances. At one time a pop/rock quartet, then a popular soca band, they are now testing the waters as newly minted reggaeton hit makers that sound like they are on the right track. On this cross-cultural collaboration with Domincan-American (as in DR-US) singer and producer Chris Hierro, KES takes the bull by the horns, and never lets go. With that pulsating rhythm that has dance floors filled in Latin America, Miami and the Caribbean, language is no barrier for “having a time” at 130 beats per minute. Body Talk asks the proverbial question, “If I talk to you / Will you understand?” In Spanish and English, the answer is a resounding yes! Music is that universal language that drives action, and making bodies talk is the goal of this record. So far, so good.
- These reviews appear in the March/April 2016 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2016, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.