|With the release of his first solo album in 1979, Andy Narell took the steelpan out of the steelband and brought it into the jazz band, and with every album since, he has explored the possibilities and expanded the role of the pan in contemporary music. With the release of his groundbreaking album ThePassage in 2004, featuring the Parisien steelband Calypsociation and special guests Michael Brecker, Paquito D'Rivera, and Hugh Masekela, he came full circle and brought 25 years of jazz experience to a 30 piece steel orchestra. He followed up with another quartet record from Sakésho in 2005, We Want You To Say (with Mario Canonge, Michel Alibo, and Jean Philippe Fanfant).
The creative journey continues with Heads Up International’s worldwide release of Narell’s Tatoom: Music for Steel Orchestra (HUCD-3122) on February 27, 2007. With the help of three brilliant soloists – guitarist and labelmate Mike Stern, tenor saxophonist David Sanchez and percussionist Luis Conte – Narell has again merged his unique jazz writing with the power and energy of a big steelband. This time however, he has taken the concept of a composer playing his own music to a new level.
“This entire album was recorded one instrument at a time,” says Narell. “I developed the music over a period of 2 years’ work at Calypsociation steelband school in Paris, and was playing it live with a 25 piece band before I started recording this album. For this recording, I started with computer sequences of the music, then had Mark Walker and Jean Philippe Fanfant play drums to that. Then Luis Conte played congas and percussion. I added the rest of the ‘engine room’ – the iron, which is an assortment of brake drums and cowbells. After that, I played all the pans, one at time, and finally my solos, then the solos by Mike Stern and David Sanchez.”
The recording of Tatoom posed many logistical difficulties, not least of which was assembling a 22 piece steelband of Ellie Mannette's finest instruments. “I’ve been playing Ellie's instruments exclusively since I was 12 years old,” says Narell. “They have a unique, warm sound all across the orchestra, Once I decided to overdub all the parts myself, I took the next step and spent the necessary time on the road recording in various locations, in order to put together an entire orchestra of his best instruments. The sound of the band heard on this record is five tenor pans and four double seconds playing the melodies, four more double seconds and four sets of triple guitars playing the harmonies, two sets of tenor bass, and three sets of six-bass (one bass instrument is composed of six 55-gallon drums).”
So what the listener is treated to is the sound of a big band driven by the burning grooves of Mark Walker, Jean Philippe Fanfant, and Luis Conte, with Andy Narell nailing all the pan parts, playing his own music on the most beautiful set of steel pans ever assembled for a recording. With the addition of solos by Stern, Sanchez and Conte, Narell has again taken steelband music to a whole new place where Jazz and Afro-Caribbean music come together, and where the raw energy of the steelband has been captured by the best recording techniques.