Gary Trotman’s new CD, PanBrassOrama touts itself as a "Steelasophical Midi Album Production Product". Those who are fans of steel pan (a.k.a. steel drum) music will probably get a lot of enjoyment from this album. However, it does little to meet the musical requirements of a good jazz release.
Mr. Trotman is clearly a superior panist. However, his playing is covered by (or at best blended with) the rest of the instrumentation. These arrangements leave much to be desired. Although filled with good melodies, riffs, and so forth, they just aren’t cohesive enough from one section to another to listen to. Furthermore, each song sounds extremely similar to the song preceding and following it. The rhythm section is exactly the same, and the melodies and horn lines are also nearly identical from tune to tune.
What is perhaps most distracting on the album is the use of computer-created MIDI instruments. Although it is useful, an album filled with such sound creates an undesirable effect. It begins to sound mechanical; a tangible feeling that the music is not authentic.
There are, however, many positive attributes to this album. For example it is delightful to hear the steel pan sound backed by a jazz horn section (although in this case it is computer generated). As stated before, Mr. Trotman’s playing is clearly exceptional. It is filled with energy and skill. Lastly, it is an interesting idea, and worth further examination, to mix the music of Trinidad with other genres of music, such as jazz, classical, Latin, etc.
Nevertheless, the album in total fails to be appealing. The energy that is provided in live performance of a steel pan orchestra fails to translate to this recording. The combination of a live musician and computer generated music also leaves much to be desired. Yet there is much that can be taken from this album that is positive. The steel pan music is full of vivaciousness that deserves more attention world-wide. Mr. Trotman may just be the man to do it.