Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Trinidelphia 2013

Trinidelphia cover art

Philadelphia is not exactly known as the home for steel drum improvisational music. This needs to change...

As I have said before, I am on a musical quest for new sounds, new rhythms, inventive melodies and the chance to move well outside my comfort zone while taking the sonic road less traveled. So can four cats from Philly really pull off a steel drum combo in the spirit of an Andy Narrell? Why yes! Yes they can!

Smooth jazz artists speak of "vibe" and "chill" to the point where both words lose all meaning about the music for which a great many of these artists is a bit "one note" at best. Calypso and Caribbean music can also suffer from a more "one note" approach even when played by some of the most authentic seasoned professionals available. What makes Trinidelphia work so well is that there is an eclectic vibe that runs through the release while the compositions run through foot to floor originals as well as covers that run the sonic spectrum from Neil Young to Jimi Hendrix. There is an amazing vitality to this release and the arrangements from tenor steelpan, trumpet and flugelhorn phenom Chris Aschman are simply spot on, as tight and well crafted as any you will hear from a similar ensemble. Shawn Hennessey delivers some rock solid vocals to go along with his artful nuances on percussion and guitar. Lyrical bassist Ian Rafalak has mad skills and serves as the musical glue that binds this collective together. Joe Truglio on the drumset offers the perfect counterpoint to Aschman throughout this sonic smorgasbord of delights. Opening with a more hard bop riff on D'Angelo's "Spanish Joint" we later move to layers of texture that are so fitting the classic Duke Ellington tune "Caravan." Admittedly the Jimi Hendrix tune "Fire" was cause for an immediate eyebrow raise as there are some tunes that simply don't translate well to an improvised setting and there are some tunes you simply don't touch. With a precise flair and smoldering confidence, Trinidelphia does the unthinkable and crushes this tune and takes legitimate ownership if just for a brief moment in time.

Calypso and Caribbean music suffers from the same lack of basic understanding as does Latin jazz. To keep in short, the sub genres within the Calypso family are dependent upon which country and what type of instrumentation is utilized. Trinidelphia is a modern jazz riff on the incredible vibe coming from of all places, Trinidad and Tobago. Purists could have a bone to pick but purists in all musical genres have always been made to feel uncomfortable when their comfort zone is challenged. When an artist pushes the music forward and embraces new sounds, developed rhythmic structures and sophisticated harmonies that may run outside the accepted convention of any genre then the possibility of creative genius is often just around the corner.

Trinidelphia is a formidable 4tet with mad skills, a unique musicality and an artistic vision that allows world music to come full circle.

4 1/2 Stars!

Tracks: Spanish Joint; Let's Get Carried Away; Caravan; Pan Rising; The Last Suppitt; Harvest Moon; Commemoration; Fire; Pan In Minor.

Personnel: Chris Aschman: tenor steelpan, trumpet 92,5), flugelhorn (7); Shawn Hennessey: vocals (2,6,8), percussion, guitar (2); Ian Rafalak: electric bass; Joe Truglio: drumset (1,2,5,6,7,9); Also featured: Matt Scarano: drumset (3,4,8); Kevin Hanson: guitar (1,7,8); Jeremy Grenhart; fender rhodes piano (1,4); Tom Spiker: guitar (3,5), steel pedal guitar (6); Kyle DunLeavey: double tenor steelpan (4).