The Chantal Esdelle Caribbean Jazz Corner

Notes, Commentary, Updates on Caribbean Jazz, musicians, recordings, projects, and events.

Sweet Southland Vibes November 23, 2015

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Left to Right:  Kyle Noel, Charles Ryan, Tinika Davis, Damyon Alexander

Kyle Noel’s set was sweet and intense.  Charles Ryan added just the right treatment on bass and Damyon Alexander’s guitar accompaniment was inventive, relevant and in the true style of kaiso. A perfect match for the kaiso originals and standards Noel performed in his set.

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EJC regulars were satisfied with yet another evening of beautiful, thoughtful, well played music.  I was glad to join in the opening piece, Andre Tanker’s Forward Home, listen to his duet with Natasha Joseph on Pan Night and Day and savour his performance of his originals, Swift Breeze, Yard of Love (a dedication to Earl Rodney) and Fly Away (dedicated to the memory of his brother).

This disciple of Earl Rodney represented the four sticks movement well. It was truly a gift to experience a piece of this young musician’s soul.

Thank you Kyle.



Week 2 Pan Jazz Lime @The Jazz Studio November 17, 2015


Left to Right: Kyle Noel, Douglas Redon, Chantal Esdelle, Darren Sheppard.

We are all pannists but it was Darren who took the lead on his tenor pan this past Saturday 14th November.  Kyle played drums, Douglas Redon anchored us with his stellar bass playing and I did a pretty decent job on the keys.  We truly enjoyed supporting Darren’s intense, dexterous, powerful playing and ably added to the evening with solos of our own.

A handful of satisfied repeat EJC patrons shared in this experience.  Another opportunity for us to play, experiment and grow.

On Saturday 21st November Kyle Noel will share a few originals and his arrangements of a few Trinidadian classics. The first show is at 7pm and the second at 8.30pm.  Join us at the Jazz Studio, 51 Cornelio Street, Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.  Email <> or call (868) 622-8062.



EJC 2015/16 Calendar

One of the most important hats I wear is that of the Managing Director of the Ethnic Jazz Club (EJC).  This is where I make space for me and my colleagues to produce and present our music.  This is the calendar for our 2015/16 calendar year.  The posts that follow are updates on the events listed and other related Caribbean Jazz tidbits.

We look forward to your joining us.


EJC 2015/16Calendar

EJC Calendar of events


Week 1 Pan Jazz Lime 2015 @ the Jazz Studio November 14, 2015

The first week of the Pan Jazz Lime got off to a great start on Saturday 7th November with Natasha Joseph.  Natasha performed her arrangements of Jane (Sparrow), Pan on the Move (Holman), included the standards Spain (Corea) and St. Thomas (Rollins), and performed her own composition “In God’s time”.  The set, backed by Douglas Redon (bass), Donald Noel (congas and djembe) and Chantal Esdelle (keys), was performed well and thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.


The musicians: Left to right, Donald Noel, Natasha Joseph, Chantal Esdelle and Douglas Redon.

The audience included a few members from Phase II (the band that Natasha serves as drill master for), Cuban professor Graciella Chailloux (Chantal’s Cuban mum) and some of her colleagues, and a few drop ins.  A small audience and a warm one.

The second evening of Pan Jazz Lime, Saturday 14th November will be led by Darren Sheppard the original lead pannist of Toronto based Jazz Group Kalabash and founder and manager of Fusion Steel.

The Pan Jazz Lime is being held at “The Jazz Studio” 51 Cornelio Street Woodbrook, (868) 622-8062,, every Saturday in November.  Two shows each evening 7pm and 8.30pm.


Sounds like… (Dean Williams @ Blue Culture’s Jazz Quarters) July 4, 2012

   Beautiful people on stage and in the audience, that was my first thought as I entered Casa de Ibiza last night.  Guitarist Dean Williams and the three young men, Rodney Alexander (bass), Alpha Simpson (drums), Anthony Woodroffe (sax) were definitely worth a second look, while the music, played to a young, attractive, progressive-looking, mature-looking audience, made me not just take a second look but also a closer listen.  As I did, I found myself thinking, “this sounds like Stevie Wonder”, “this sounds like Marcus Miller”, “this sounds like Steve Coleman”, “this sounds like the horn lines from Etienne Charles’ Douens”, “this reminds me of Omar Hakim”, “that calypso soca groove sounds like Kid Creole”.  These references were not necessarily a good or a bad thing, simply and interesting one.

In the first set these musical styles and references were more apparent since Dean presented standard material first and they actually played Stevie’s “Isn’t she lovely” into John Legend’s “Ordinary People”, followed by Ralph MacDonald’s “Just the two of us”, and ended with Gershwin’s “Summertime”. They played all of these in Funk/R&B style so it would be hard to navigate away from the style of drummers like Hakim, bassists like Miller and guitarists like Benson who have defined that style of improv for decades, or to resist quoting themes from popular songs like Maniac from Flashdance.  So they stayed close to the flight plan and did a good job of it.  The problem, though, was balance.  Bass, drums and guitar is a hard rhythm section format.  The middle/chords/colour that we get from an extra guitar or keys can easily be and, in this case for me, was missed.  I tried to figure out why, since this is not a new combination, Theron Shaw, Douglas Redon, and Sean Thomas did it quite successfully in their group Three in One. I settled on a few possibilities.  Maybe the bass took up too much and the guitar took up too little of a presence in the mix, maybe the obvious skill gained by the drummer and bassist from study and transcriptions should now be harnessed into thinking well about establishing a smoother and less static underlying groove when playing together in this combination.  Anthony’s solos on sax and his and Dean’s singing on Just the two of us and Summertime, respectively, took my attention away from the thinking and allowed me to enjoy the last two pieces in this set.

After the break during which I had a taste of some pretty good chicken, we were treated to originals.  Dean let us know that they were his originals re-arranged by Jesse Ryan.  Jesse joined Anthony in the sax section for the second set.  The additional sax made a marked difference to the sound.  Perhaps the background lines and solos gave Dean a chance to fill in the middle.  Whatever it was it did change things.  Although most of the originals were clearly built around familiar musical examples; Dean’s song for his daughter, was reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s song for his daughter (Isn’t she lovely) in several respects, the horn lines in Tanzania were a bit too close to the ones Etienne wrote for his original Douens, and the Kid Creaole take used to establish the groove for Dean’s Caribbean inspired piece was a bit shaky (timewise);  I was glad to have them.  I was glad to have them because I could feel the enjoyment and excitement that the group and the audience felt in experiencing them.  Rodney and Alpha had a really good time with their solos in this half, especially in the last piece, Super Speed, and I really appreciated their approach to playing with the time.

All in all it is clear that these musicians are listening and transcribing and I believe that they will come more and more into their own.  They also have a really nice audience to grow with.

Modupe Onilu and his group are on next week at Blue Culture’s Jazz Quarters, Ibiza, Tragarete Road, Port-of-Spain, Tuesday 10th July, 9pm.


October, more than just a good month November 1, 2010

Personal commentary on a few jazz projects and events in Trinidad and Tobago by jazz musician and activist Chantal Esdelle. Sound Connection 2010, Playing solo at Ibiza and seeing Ruth, Keisha Codrington and the Trinidad and Tobago Steelpan and Jazz Festival

Chantal Esdelle

October was both an artistically productive and personally enriching month for me.  Being a believer, I’m thankful to God for this.  I was able to get the Sound Connection 2010 recording project to happen and through it record my jazz group Moyenne’s second album, record Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, and record John Arnold and the Kariwak Players.  On the performance side of things Moyenne had a good run at the Trinidad and Tobago Steelpan and Jazz Festival, and I got to do some solo work at a cabaret-style gig.  I also celebrated five years of marriage (eight years in the relationship), and the birthdays of several family members.

Sound, solid, supportive, long standing relationships made all of this possible.

Sound Connection 2010

The Sound Connection Project was the biggest example of the significance of these relationships.  A seven-year relationship with Alexis Vazquez’ team in Cuba proved to be a platform on which an easy sibling-like relationship materialized between me and the audio engineers from MUSICUBA-EGREM.  Fito, Luis and Reinier did not just come and work for me, they worked with me on the project.  Victor and his team from Audio Works went all out to make sure we had the equipment we needed.  Marsha Pearce’s input was evidence that old friends are like gold, especially when they’re intelligent, sharp, and resourceful. Judith did not give up and Briana lent her support willingly.  All the while Robert drove around, stocked the green room, got coffee and, just generally made our residence at CLR James Auditorium a comfortable one.

Moyenne was magnificent.  The process of preparing for our recording during Sound Connection made me notice, yet again, that these musicians value their relationship with me.  Kevin, Junior, Dougie, and Darren, showed up, in every sense of the word, for rehearsals, for the recordings, with their compositions….playing with them is always a joy and a blessing.

Playing solo at Ibiza and seeing Ruth

Early in the month Moyenne got an offer to share a cabaret gig with Ruth Osman and her group (not sure if the billing is still Ruth Osman and Jacoustic).  It seemed like too much for too little.  So Moyenne decided to let Ruth do the gig I would just do a few solo pieces on the night.  It was wonderful seeing Ruth’s crew, Anton, Marva, and James, play because I know them all and I know that their deciding to play and finding a place to do it was no easy feat, plus they did it well.   The gig was cool for me too.  I got to play jazz and calypso standards that the audience enjoyed and James gave me some excellent support on the congas.  A few people were like, wow, you can really play.  That felt odd, you mean they didn’t notice I could play before that?  Perhaps more solo playing is needed.

Keisha Codrington and The Trinidad and TobagoSteelpan and Jazz Festival

Ricky joined Moyenne for this gig since Darren was in Toronto.  It was sweet.  You know what I loved….that I played my first instrument, the piano, not a weighted Yamaha or Roland keyboard, but a grand piano.  It makes such a difference to the music.  Cesar Lopez and the Habana Ensemble followed.  They were phenomenal.  Wow, would be a sufficient critique of their work.  Then Cesar introduced a young woman he first met when she was eight, he found her a significant musician then, and so was pleased to have her perform with them now, at age sixteen.  He introduced Keisha.  I thought, we’ve all been hearing her make magic on the steelpans since she was eight and she continues to get better and better.  She was patient and thoughtful in her performance, leaving room and taking room demonstrating her skill and as Natasha put it, her ear.  As usual I wish her and the Codrington Pan Family nothing but the best.


No projects, at least not big ones.  I’ll finally collect my bound thesis, its been ready since early this year.  Perhaps I’ll have a quiet month reading it and figuring out how to turn it into a book……….


Names that weren’t spelt out fully in the article

Fito (Adolfo Martinez Rodriguez), Luis Gonzalez Duran,  Reinier Lopez Gonzalez, Victor Donawa, Marsha Pearce, Robert Young,  Judith Marchan, Brianna McCarthy, Kevin Sobers (steelpans in Moyenne), Junior Noel (percussion in Moyenne), Douglas Redon (bass in Moyenne), Darren Sheppard (drums, in Moyene) Ruth Osman, Anton Ricardo, Marva Newton, James Fenton, Ricardo Ruiz (drums in Moyenne), Natasha Joseph (leading steelpan player and arranger) 


Perfect Timing September 5, 2010

Anton Doyle (left) of Production One Ltd. was happy to hear all about the project and meet up with an old friend, Christopher Cozier (right)

The Ethnic Jazz Club’s Sound Connection project for 2010 is moving along well.  The thing that has been most encouraging for me, since our launch on August 19th, is the response.  Since the launch I have shared with several people how the Sound Connection project’s service of allowing for the quality recording of live instruments performed simultaneously may be seen as the best way to capture Caribbean music, especially since it is the interaction of musicians and participants that has contributed most to the creation and development of our universally acclaimed musics.  Throughout our meetings in north and south Trinidad, my conversations with John Arnold in Tobago, my colleague Kevin Sobers’ interaction with musicians in central, and a few individual consultations, the same sentiment has been expressed; we need this and we are ready to be a part of it.  In the middle of all of this, though, there was some anxiety.  Questions about whether enough time was given to source funding, to prepare recorded material, to liase with the Cubans, to get the technical equipment, to rent the hall, all seemed to intimidate a few people and lead them ask the question; is this the right time for the project?

My immediate response to this, and some people’s instinctive understanding, is that once you have been preparing for shows and have a working repertoire that you have been performing you are ready to record.  The danger is, perhaps, to wait.  A recording, after all, is a representation of your music and your group at one point in time.  If Miles waited too long to record with Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Paul Chambers and Cannonball, he would have essentially missed the opportunity to record with that group since they moved on to form their own configurations.  Caribbean examples can be found in Sparrow’s early Troubadors of the sixties where a wait would have cheated us of hearing Earl Rodney, Señor Ruiz, Roy Cape, and Oxley on the same albums, in Chucho Valdez’ Irakere where a wait would have cheated us of having icons like him Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D’Riviera on the same album, and countless configurations of Caribbean jazz orchestras by Luther Francois would not be evidenced through the miracle of the sound record.  This is all because people move, dissolve relationships, and sometimes even die.  It is my understanding that if you have a product now you have to move as though you’re going to record now.  We did that for my group Moyenne’s first album.  We decided at the end of May and by the end of August we were out of Caribbean Sound Basin (one of the top recording facilities in the world at the time), after just a day and half of playing and three of mixing, with an album.  The magic there was that we did not start with the question of capital but rather with the reality of people and the magic of music.

On the practical side The Ethnic Jazz Club has been conferring with the Cuban team from EGREM/CUBADISCO on the best possible recording process for the format of Sound Connection since the beginning of this year, the auditorium has been booked, our technical liason Victor Donawa has gotten the preliminary list of equipment requirements and a scouting visit has been scheduled for the end of September to ensure everything is in place.  All this just to say that it is always the right time to make music, to record it and to show that you value your work, and to have others value it too.  It is also always to the right time to work together in our Caribbean region.  The EJC’s interaction with the Institute of Cuban music first resulted with the EJC presenting grammy nominated Cuban artist Bellita y Jazz tumbata in their first peformance in Trinidad and Tobago, and first presenting the winners of Jo Jazz in Trinidad as well.  The EJC has encouraged this interaction with the Cuban administrators and this has led to Production One Ltd. following suit by presenting Bellita twice since then and including a Jo Jazz team in a couple editions of their jazz presentations.

Since it is always the right time to record and to bring the Caribbean together Sound Connection is not a “one off” project.  The EJC will offer the service again and again.  If you aren’t able to record in this first run the next one is scheduled for April 2011.  So keep in touch and cast an occasional eye on my blog.  The recording sessions for Sound Connection will be held from October 11th-18th, 2010 at The CLR James auditorium at the Cipriani College of Labour and Co-opreative studies.  The public will be invited to view some of the sessions.  See you there!

Chantal Esdelle