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Friday 24 May 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Pioneers, pan and all that jazz

THE EDITOR: As an unabashed reader/supporter of Dara Healy’s column, and an unashamed admirer of her noble thrusts to punctuate and evangelise our indigenous culture (all heads bowed in the direction of great antecedents such as Dara’s mom Pearl Eintou Springer, and Eintou’s fellow culturati John Cupid), may I humbly merely add a footnote to Dara’s wonderfully succinct treatment of “Reimagining our festival of jazz” (April 13).

The Pan-Jazz Festival (PJF) of TT was the brainchild of Georgie Masson (ex-PRO, Trinidad Hilton, then Tourist Board member) who in the mid-1980s asked a few aficionados to undertake the festival as a tourism-cum-cultural initiative.

The “braves” approached and agreeing included Noel Wyatt, Nicky Inniss, Frank Martineau, Marie Abdullah, Anne-Marie Grant, Ken Holder, Gene Lawrence, Scofield Pilgrim, Dick Hobday (and others I apologise for not as yet remembering), plus yours respectfully. We were later joined by compatriots such as Gerry Popplewell, Tony Smart, Ingrid Hussain, Roy Regis, Herbert Bishop, and Glen Wilson.

The festival was coming on the heels of some earlier TT stellar private efforts, as Trinis collaborated with people at the US Embassy (eg its first afro-American public affairs officer Dennis Askey) to bring to Trinidad the Duke Ellington Orchestra touring through Latin America and the Caribbean; Oscar Peterson with Dave Young for the 1976 US bicentennial celebrations; Don Cherry, Elvin Jones also touring; and Wynton Marsalis – this last concert giving us the inspiring experience of Wynton and Boogsie Sharp in a shoot-out that Wynton graciously surrendered to Boogsie. Thus was born Pan-Jazz literally on the highest note, and at the most pantastic level.

The PJF formally took off in 1986, and was staged mostly annually for some eight years, featuring international legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Arturo Sandoval, Frank Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Garrett, Vanessa Rubin (of TT heritage), Roy Hargrove, Tommy Flanagan, Tania Maria, the Cubans Chucho Valdez & Irakere, Joe Lovano, Paquito D’Riviera, Stanley Turrentine, Houston Pearson-Etta Jones, Courtney Pine, Claudio Roditi, Dave Valentine, Charlie Haden, Yellow Jackets, Jerry Gonzalvez & The Fort Apache Band; along with TT/regional icons including Zanda, Raf Robertson, Andre Tanker, Mungal Patasar, Luther Francois, Marius Cultier, Alain Jean-Marie, Monty Alexander, and even David Rudder.

What most of all made it distinctive and distinguished was the deliberate birthing of a concert-quality mating between pan and jazz, in this international-standard eponymous festival which spotlighted the world-class virtuosity of pannists Boogsie Sharpe, Robbie Greenidge, Rudi Smith, Annise Hadeed, Othello Mollineaux, Andy Narrell, Natasha Joseph, Liam Teague, Jason Baptiste, Panazz, various steel orchestras/groups, and others.

We weren’t fooling!

To the natural question of why did it end…the answer is in a long and deep story perhaps better suited to another time and place. Suffice it to note the good fortune that the PJF was later followed by other “noble thrusts” such as the Ainsley Mark/QRC effort, Jazz on the Greens, and the Tobago hybrid.

Finally, Dara’s list of TT jazz “pioneers,” while not expected to be perfectly complete, may wish to recognise a mix of oldsters and youngsters: the Arthur Winter Big Sound Orchestra, Carlyle Henry, Clive Ellis, David Masson, Ralph Davies, Felix Roach, Larry Atwell, the John Buddy Williams family (Happy, Monty, and Noble), Clive Bradley, Willie Payne, Al “Bo” Gilkes, Dr Mervyn Williams, Scofield Pilgrim and his QRC students, Andre, Clive Zanda, Mike Georges, Toby Tobas, Chick Springer, Errol Ince, “Slam,” Cicely Ford, Mavis John, Patti Rogers, Ray Holman, Ron Reid, Raf Robertson, Mervyn De Gannes, Ronald Aqui, Richard Joseph, the Boothmans…and more. Whew!

We should all be grateful. To all…including to Dara.

ALFRED AGUITON via e-mail

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Letters to the Editor