Review of Pan Jazz Concert

Contributed by By Wanda McCrae

Now that I’ve relocated to New York City, I felt it would be a
crime against myself to not attend the Father’s Day Pan Jazz concert at Lincoln
Center’s Alice Tully Hall. One month in advance I bought myself a ticket in the
center of the orchestra section. By the time the show began, my anticipation had
grown almost unbearable; I expected an awesome show, and I was not disappointed.The program started just after 6 p.m. with a well-executed set by ADLIB Youth
Symphony. I had only heard them at Brooklyn Panorama in previous years, so this
was my first chance to hear more of their repertoire. They appeared to take
their performance very seriously–only one or two of them cracked smiles during
their set. I was told they had been working very hard to prepare, and their hard
work obviously paid off, as they did a fine job with every piece. I thought it
was both fitting and brave for them to end their set with “We Kinda Music”,
since Andy Narell, the tune’s composer, was up right behind them. I joined the
rest of the audience in enthusiastically applauding them both before and after
they took their final bows.

Narell‘s energetic set (consisting entirely of his own compositions) began
with a spirited rendition of “Kalinda”, one of my favorite tracks from his “Live
from South Africa” recording. Some of the finer points of his panmanship were
lost in the drums and percussion, but the piano and bass mixes perfectly
balanced his pans. When he introduced “Laventille”, some of the members of the
audience closest to the stage chided him until he good-naturedly went back to
the microphone and added that he had arranged that tune for Women in Steel. The
audience heartily approved of that tune and his others by giving quite an
ovation as he and his ensemble ended their set. He seemed to be just as
disappointed as we were, if not more, when he was told he had to end the set
earlier than he had planned.

Garvin Blake’s set was more laid back, but just as pleasing to the ears. I had
never seen him perform, so it was interesting for me to observe and hear the
differences between him and Andy Narell. The tunes he played were sweet and
enticing, inspiring the audience to sing along with his rendition of Sparrow’s
“Ah Fraid.” His ensemble even incorporated an accordion on his rendition of Duke
Ellington’s “Caravan”, showing, once again, just how well the pan can mix with
any assortment of instruments. He and his ensemble also received a hearty
ovation from what appeared to be a nearly full house.

Preceded by driving rhythm and bass, Liam Teague and Arturo Tappin took the
stage and blew up the place with TNT, the title track from their duo CD. Then
they soothed our senses with the sweetest rendition of “The Hammer” I have ever
heard in my life. Throughout the set, Mr. Teague set my head a-spinning with his
rapid-fire panmanship. At first, all I could do was sit with my mouth open as
his hands flew over his single tenor. I can see why he is called the “Paganini
of Pan!” Once I got over my amazement at how quickly and accurately he could
play, I was able to appreciate the way he and Mr. Tappin blended their
instruments’ voices to produce music which was both sweet and scintillating.
Most of us in the audience jumped to our feet to loudly cheer and applaud them
at the end of their all-too-short set. (Of course now I must buy their CD, so I
can hear more!)

All in all, I was thoroughly pleased with the event. The venue seemed to be
perfectly suited to the show, since it was neither too big nor too small. The
acoustics were very good, particularly for ADLIB’s set; I could hear the basses
in the back as clearly as I could hear the tenors and seconds in the front. The
drums and percussion were a bit overpowering during the rest of the show, but
that is probably more a function of the mix, not the building’s acoustics. There
also seemed to be some confusion about how long each ensemble had for their set,
with most being told onstage that they had to end right away. But the MC kept
things moving along smoothly, even during the slight delay while the drums were
prepared for the final set. Between the great venue, great turnout, and great
performances, taking into account the minor glitches I mentioned, I’d rate the
show an “A-“.

The MC mentioned Sunday’s show was the first of what will be an annual event. I
certainly hope so.

[Photo credits: Photo 1: Ad Lib. Courtesy of When Steel Talks. Photo 2: Andy
Narell. Courtesy of Heads Up Records. Photo 3: Garvin Blake, courtesy of When
Steel Talks].