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Pure Pleasure in the midst of Carnival

Friday, February 14, 2014
Pedro Lezama at the launch of his Pure Pleasure CD. PHOTO: WESLEY GIBBINGS

It’s four Saturdays before Carnival 2014. Not far away, east steelband giant, Exodus, is going through its paces for preliminary judging of Panorama in two days. Andy Narrell is jazzing with Birdsong a few corners to the east and Curepe Scherzando can be heard from here if you listen carefully.


We’re at the Learning Resource Centre at UWI, St Augustine. What a time and place to launch saxophonist/flautist Pedro Lezama’s Pure Pleasure smooth jazz album.


Respected, pioneering producer, Simeon Sandiford, has something to do with this and the faithful appear. There are few people who have put their financial and professional necks on the line for local musicians spanning as many genres, pan in particular, as has this body, mind and soul behind Sanch Electronix.


Tonight, it’s Pedro Lezama’s turn. Leading pan player, Ken “Professor” Philmore’s name is on the ticket but his pans never mount the stage. Lezama apologises. The only pan you hear will come from the guy on the board in the sound control booth.


No big deal. There’s always Orville Roach, his keyboard and his trumpet and the hit of the night—a rousing rendition of KMC’s Soul on Fire, which stirs an otherwise sedate audience. Lezama’s versatility is on display in this piece and should possibly have set the stage for a collection more focused on his ability to harness timeless indigenous melodies. In that event, the launch date would have made more logistical sense.


That’s unless the producers had chosen to extract from Roach more of his original material—along the lines of the musically challenging Never Again which is itself reminiscent of Chuck Mangione’s 1970s offerings. It’s arguably the best track on the Pure Pleasure album.


Pitt describes Lezama’s recorded collection as an “eclectic mix” of musical genres—but not more so than the show to launch the album.


Enter gospel/country and western crooner, Joel John. Some members of the audience know the words to Blake Shelton’s Is this Austin. Many have probably never heard it before. But John’s performance is sharp and even those who came with pan and even some jazz in mind are not regretful.


MC Sharon Pitt seems impressed enough, following the performance by a recording artiste who was once in line for a Cott music award in the Gospel category.


Lezama also clearly does not have hardcore jazz fans in mind. The music that has won the dubious distinction of being described as “smooth jazz” is sometimes negatively described by some who argue that you will know what is jazz when you hear it. This now ubiquitous, saccharin genre is clearly not “it”, they would declare. With some justification.


Additionally, not that Sanch did anything wrong, but the live renditions of the tracks on Pure Pleasure at UWI outdid the HDCD versions by yards, if only because Lezama brings magnetic charm to his stage performance and Roach’s self-effacing brilliance comes to the fore more often than not—even when he gropes for his missing spectacles.


Pure Pleasure might not be all that pure, some might conclude, but it certainly has its moments of pleasure and is worth a listen.


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