There are standout artists who’ve prevailed over the years not just because of the novelty of their instruments as used in the contemporary or smooth jazz genre, but also because the way they perceive their instruments’ roles and contributions is extraordinary (e.g., Kazu Matsui, June Kuramoto of Hiroshima, and the original jazz-funk vibes man, Roy Ayers). Andy Narell, Heads Up recording artist and steel pan extraordinare, belongs to that elite group. His latest offering, Tatoom, is yet another collage of Caribbean beauty as captured in the warm sunlight of jazz.
If you enjoy long selections rather than having to replay a favorite, this album is for you. Each cut is over 9 minutes long (in most cases, over 12 minutes long). Take this one with you to the beach or on that Caribbean vacation, say to St. Lucia or St. Thomas, and you’re in steel pan heaven. In his very original way, he creates an infectious, alluring air, starting with the highly charged opener, "Izo’s Mood."
Narell is joined here by guitarist Mike Stern. As Narell says: "Mike is one of those guys who makes it sound easy. Give him room for a solo and let him go, and the ideas just flow and he swings so hard." That is quite evident here on "Baby Steps" and "Blue Mazooka." Saxophonist David Sanchez is also here and definitely announces it on "Tabanca." Luis Conte’s congas, timbales, and percussion are also very much an alive presence.
Narell’s idea to thrust the steel pan onto the orchestra scene was first explored on his The Passage release in 2004 with Heads Up. That worked so well for him that he’s repeated the exercise here, though with a different approach. Instead of recording thirty pan players live, he’s recorded this latest project one instrument at a time, including the pans. Just another example of the man’s attention to detail and dedication to creative perfection. He is well rewarded here with another masterful undertaking surely destined not only to keep his current fan base pleased but to recruit new followers of his innovative style and technique.