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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Heads Up HUCD 3122





1. Izo’s Mood
2. Tatoom
3. Baby Steps
4. Tabanca
5. Blue Mazooka
6. Appreciation
Andy Narell – Tenor, double second, triple guitar, tenor bass and bass steel pans, iron
Luis Conte – Congas, timbales, percussion
Mark Walker – Drums (tracks 1-3, 6)
Jean Philippe Fanfant – Drums (tracks 4, 5)
Mike Stern – Guitar (tracks 3, 5)
David Sanchez – Tenor sax (track 4)

The story of the steel drum is a wonderful example of necessity being the mother of invention. In Trinidad in the thirties and forties, poor Trinidadians made their own musical instruments out of waste materials. They discovered that old oil drums could be hammered out to make tuned percussion instruments which became known as steel drums, steel pans or just pans. Steel bands can now be found all over the world, and steel drums have been used in jazz groups led by the likes of Monty Alexander. Jaco Pastorius and Ahmad Jamal.

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz says that the best-known exponent of the steel drum in jazz is Andy Narell, and this album shows why. Andy plays a multiplicity of steel pans – 22 in all, recording one at a time and overlaying them through the wonders of overdubbing. Thus he generates a whole steel band. If you have prejudices about steel bands, prepare to shed them when you hear this CD. Andy creates a wonderfully chromatic mix of rich harmonies. He is aided by two fine drummers and well-known percussionist Luis Conte, who underpin the harmonies with vibrant rhythms. Guest guitarist Mike Stern is brought in for a couple of tracks. His electric guitar floats lyrically above the backing in Baby Steps and Blue Mazooka. David Sanchez adds his mellow tenor saxophone to Tabanca, gaining in expressiveness as the track continues.

But the real genius on this album is Andy Narell, whose arrangements conjure up the warmest sounds you may ever hear. His solos are intelligent and beautiful as well as jazzy, and he often makes the steel "orchestra" play jazz lines. Even if you have never liked steel bands before, I implore you to try this album – and then go back to Andy Narell’s previous CD The Passage, where he was joined by the 30-piece Parisian steel band Calypsociation. You should also sample his albums with the small group called Sakesho. Andy Narell is well worth getting to know.

Tony Augarde


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