Chantal Esdelle, a Berklee College of Music graduate, holds an important place among jazz musicians here, as she is one of the few female bandleaders, if not the only one, who is a renowned pianist in this island. She is part of a lineage that would probably include Winifred Atwell and, tangentially, Hazel Scott.
Unlike those two artistes, Esdelle has been able to mine the musical influences of Trinidad and in a deeper sense, Africa and the African diaspora in the New World for her compositions. Further, unlike Atwell and Scott, Esdelle has a body of original compositions on her two CD releases that now place her ahead of a number of jazz luminaries in the islands who still balk at releasing original music.
At the launch of Chantal Esdelle and Moyenne's second CD, Imbizo Moyenne, in May 2013, there was some disappointment that the CD wasn't available at the launch. It was available digitally, but many in attendance wanted a tangible copy of the album.
There is no denying that Esdelle, and by extension Moyenne deserve to be heard and time has allowed the disappointment of that event to be replaced with the joy in heralding this new music.
Out now in CD format to supplement the digital version already available in limited release, this simply-packaged CD fills a yawning gap in the canon of locally-released jazz music.
Imbizo Moyenne represents a calling together–a gathering of minds–to create and is the follow-up album to Moyenne's first CD, New Hope, released in 2000. Containing all-original compositions by Moyenne, this album's music is suffused with the rhythmic tropes of the French Antilles and Spanish Caribbean, as well as our familiar calypso, blues and shango rhythms.
Esdelle noted that when she was composing, she was guided by her understanding of the African experience in the Americas. The use of the myriad rhythms of the African New World, the Caribbean was recently explored by trumpeter Etienne Charles in his chart-topping release Creole Soul, so the extension of the commonality of the people of the African diaspora to express our presence in unique music is applauded. The performances showed a confidence in the improvisation by Esdelle on piano and superb pannist, Glenford Sobers, Jr. Songs such as Final Farewell and Out of Thin Air showcase this excellently.
The rhythm section of Douglas Redon on bass, Junior Noel on djembe and Darren Sheppard (of the Kalabash jazz band) on drums economically explored the range of African-influenced pulses.
This album was recorded live in 2010 at a concert at CLR James Auditorium in Valsayn. It was part of the Sound Connection Project of Esdelle's Ethnic Jazz Club Co Ltd that engaged some of the top audio engineers from the famed EGREM record label in Cuba.
The interplay between a live audience and Esdelle's band, with their implied nod to the engineers' heritage, makes for sonic treats. There is always an inherent risk that a live recording of jazz may produce music that wasn't "perfect" like a regular studio recording. That leap of faith is always the surprise that continues to sustain jazz music and its variations globally. This music will not disappear, and neither should our desire to own it.