It was a rainy, chilly Friday night but I was kept warm by the sound of music from two of the Caribbean foremost musicians�saxophonist Roy Cape and guitarist Gene Lawrence. Both men have just released new CDs, Cape's A Calypso and Soca Anthology and Lawrence's Melemelanj.
A Calypso and Soca Anthology is an 18-track collection of Cape's life's work, produced by the prolific Alvin Daniell for Major & minor Productions Ltd. It compiles 50-plus years of music, dating back from 1960. The music of three legendary local bandleaders�Selwyn Wheeler, Clarence Curvan, Ron Berridge�occupy the album's first five tracks. The selections include Wheeler's interpretation of The Ugly Duckling, actually a piece composed 100 years ago (in 1914) by Russian Sergei Prokofiev, and the 1963 Inez and Charlie Foxx composition Mocking Bird. These are followed by Curvan orchestra's arrangement of Moulin Rouge; and, Lillipops and Roses and My Favourite Things by Berridge's orchestra. Cape played for these three orchestras when just barely out of his teens.
Cape also records his stint with Sparrow's Troubadours via the 1969 recording of Sa Sa Yea and Bongo, on the Sparrow Troubadours-Hot and Sweet LP.
On nine of the ensuing tracks of the CD Cape displays his wide range of musicianship and diversity by highlighting various artistes he has provided musical accompaniment for, including Black Stalin (Kaiso Gone Dread and Name the Game); Ras Shorty I (Watch Out my Children); Nigel Lewis (War Party); SuperBlue (Barbara); Destra (Tremble It); Blaxx (Carnival Questions and Breathless); and, Kurt Allen (SSS). He also features his collaborations with Stalin, including 2002 ditty Leroy, Roy as well as his own composition Sing Your Song.
If only for its wide range of material, I found the Cape CD to be very appealing. Mastered by Martin "Mice" Raymond, Cape was assisted in procuring vintage material for the disc by calypso researchers Teddy Pinheiro and Desmond Peters.
Four studios in four Caribbean islands spawned Lawrence's Melemelanj CD. The St Vincent-born musician recorded the disc at Leeboration and Denyl's Sound studios (St Lucia); Sanch Electronix (Trinidad); and, Hit Island studio (Barbados). Mixed by Toby Armstrong, Danyl Daniel and Francis "Leebo" De Lima, and mastered by Lawrie Dunster at Curvepusher, in London, all songs were composed by Lawrence.
A patois word, Melemelanj means "a conglomeration, a callaloo" and this album lives up to its title, imbibed with the authentic nuances and rhythms of the Caribbean. Among its exotically titled and Caribbean-infused tracks are Jolanta, Chatoyea, Shining Bush, Dr Macumba, Monkey, Shango and Chunga. Further afield there are Zambezi, Montevideo and Blind Billy Blue.
Work is the title of another track, played in a madan style, the authentic work rhythm of St Lucia, using traditional harmonies in a modern arrangement. Also native to St Lucia is Zambezi which adapted the island's Coromanthe rhythm.
Chatoyea is actually a three part melody where the first two melodies are composed to be played simultaneously using the Baladi rhythm. This track was influenced by the heroic love stories and myths surrounding the great Carib chief Chatoyea who is recognised as the first national hero of St Vincent & the Grenadines. This item incorporates the use of strings (violin, viola, cello) to create a distinct mood.
Lawrence hopes that the composition Shango will encourage the use of more from the rich and untapped repository of our traditional indigenous rhythms in our modern compositions.
Shining Bush, which has a modern calypso melody, and Blind Billy Blue are two pieces inspired by acclaimed St Lucian playwright Derek Walcott.
These two CDs are an elixir to relax mind, body and soul in all weather so don't wait for the passage of another tropical wave to go out and purchase copies.