The Launch of “The Roots of Jazz”
On Sunday 31st May, 2015, Jazz lovers flocked to the popular Issa’s Restaurant and Lounge (formerly Kavemar Pub), upper Henry Street, Port-of-Spain, to get a taste of “The Roots of Jazz”, a sumptuous musical feast, prepared and presented by Mr. Pelham Goddard and members of his Jazz ensemble. The band’s repertoire included classic hits from the 50s, 70s and 80s eras with performances by vocalist Natalie York, Jason ‘Fridge’ Seecharan and Moricia Cagan. It was an evening of intoxicating grooves for the full house of Jazz lovers.
Back in 1975, music stalwart Pelham Goddard, formed a studio band called Sensational Roots. The band, which was a small group of musicians comprised of drums, bass guitar, saxophone and keyboards, was based at KH studios, Sea Lots, Port of Spain where they recorded most of the studio’s products on its Kalinda label. In 1976, the band was officially recognized as one of the top studio bands in the country. Working closely with Mr. Goddard at the time was New York-based Trinbagonian, calypso producer Rawlston ‘Charlie’ Charles. Following the successful production of the hit songs “Savage” by Cecil ‘Maestro’ Hume and Aldwin ‘Lord Kitchener’ Roberts’ Christmas song “Drink ah Rum”, the small studio band, through the sponsorship of ‘Charlie’ became a road band and was launched in July 1977 as “Charlie’s Roots.”
The success and quality of the work produced by the band under the leadership of Goddard, took the music and entertainment community in Trinidad and Tobago by storm. Charlie’s Roots soon became a household name and one of the most sought-after bands both locally and internationally. By the end of its era as a road band, Charlie’s Roots was recognized for having won the most road marches in the history of calypso and also for producing the most popular songs some of which include”No, No We Ain’t Going Home”, “Free Up”, “Bahia Girl”, “The Hammer”, “This Party is it”, “Permission to Mash Up the Place”, “Bacchanal Lady”, “Rebecca”, “Ethel”, “Soca Baptist” and many more.
The ending of a phenomenal era didn’t stop this veteran song writer, composer, arranger, recording and performing artist from continuing his musical journey. Still under his leadership, Goddard continued to bring musical pleasure to his audiences. Goddard explained:
After [Charlie’s Roots], we decided to keep the name “Pelham Goddard and Roots” because the guy who was sponsoring Charlie’s Roots in New York doesn’t do that business anymore so we cannot carry Charlie’s Roots again … we just say Pelham Goodard and Roots. We did some segments on Thursday nights at the Nu Pub [the] year before and early last year. We called it Caribbean Night which we want to bring back again. Some nights were good. We had big nights like when we had Rudder, Black Stalin, Robbie Greenidge, and those were real big, big nights. We had a tribute to Kitchener for his birthday. After that we decided we want to play, we want to go and practice…and we are listening to a lot of R&B and Jazz music, and then you could go back in time and see Miles Davis and all this set of music we want to play. We want to play good music.
He further added:
We are doing a different type of show today which is “The Roots of Jazz” with just a smaller size of the band: a five piece, vocalists and so on. The regular band is four horns, percussion, congas and so on. It is still Roots, but we are doing “The Roots of Jazz”. We leave the name “Roots” inside of there. We have five members and we have Moricia Cagan … she is our vocalist. Vonrick Maynard is the drummer, Oslyn Pompie is the bass player, Devon Ocho is the guitarist, Pelham Goddard on piano and Malcolm Boyce on saxophone. We are having Natalie Yorke and Jason ‘Fridge’ Seecharan from H2O Phlo, guesting with us today.
When asked if the band was sponsored and has performed outside of Trinidad and Tobago, he replied:
No, we now started this five piece. This is a kind of stepping stone thing. This show we are doing here is a kind of a launch pad. We are doing things on our own. We are well rehearsed and all the things are in place. We have an engineer … Yoichi … he decided to work with us. We have some good stuff so it looking good. This is something we are trying because we do not want to be stagnant; we want to be playing music all the time. We do a lot of shows up in Normandie at Carnival time. We will be at We Beat backing up calypsonians because that is what we do too. So instead of just sitting and doing nothing, we decided to just get something on … different venues and do stuff. We have a recording Moricia did of me and Dave: “You are what Love is”. We did that last year and this year we did “One Hundred Ways” with Malcolm Boyce and Devon Ocho.
With decades of musical knowledge behind him, he elaborated on his inspiration for getting into the genre of Jazz music:
I know that music already, so I just want to play. When we go to play out and we go to sound check, I used to be coasting all those songs on the piano and so on. “Boy,” some guys would say, “we should really do something yuh know.” So I know all of these songs and the inspiration really. When you look at Youtube and you look at Stevie Wonder and them playing, you want to be on a stage playing that kind of thing. The inspiration is there. You might not make a million dollars but once you are playing…the playing is important. Sit by your instrument, practice and you start to play. When money come it will come. It is not a short term, it is a long term thing.
Working behind the scenes to ensure the best audio performance for the listening enjoyment of the audience was Mr. Yoichi Watanabe and his crew who did a remarkable job with the sound. Mr. Watanabe, is a Japanese national living in Trinidad for the last ten years. He is a free-lance engineer who has been working with the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) for the last six years teaching music technology which is the part of the UTT Academy of performing arts.
He expressed enjoyment at working with Mr. Goddard saying:
The first time I came to Trinidad was in 1990, twenty-five years ago, and of course at the time the number one band was Charlie’s Roots…Mr. Goddard. I am so happy to be now assisting him…anything I can do. I never thought of myself as mixing for my icon. So at that time around 1990, I was in New York and that’s how I started to find the Soca music and I stared to travel. Anytime when I checked the record credit, I saw his name so I was wondering who was Mr. Pelham Goddard. Just recently, I did the renovation and acoustic design of his studio. He has been doing this about twenty-three years and this is the first time he is renovating his studio. I am so happy that I was part of that project.
In Panorama, what we do is recording. Recording the whole Panorama from the preliminary stage to finals. We are basically doing the Panorama to reintroduce the younger students who have never been involved in pan, so it’s mandatory for our students to basically go into Panorama to work as a support to our culture … so that is a part of the programme.
With Jazz music being one of the least popular art-forms in Trinidad and Tobago, Goddard expressed that young people are not getting more involved in it because,
For the young upcoming musicians who would like to get into the art-form of Jazz, he offered this advice:
Jazz is a kind of an education; you have to be educated musically to understand what it is you are hearing. Like Boyce from the police band who [was] educated and Maynard and myself who came up with Bradley, we kind of educated ourselves in that format. Young people can’t just appreciate it like that. You have to understand what it is about. Soca is an easier kind of music to absorb and Reggae. It doesn’t have all these set of big chords and tension.
The Jazz audience is a very small audience and to me, like how they start Tobago Jazz and they bring in the Soca people to make up crowd, I am not really on that. I like Jazz as I hear Jazz. I want to hear a saxophonist soloing. I don’t want nobody singing “Wine Back” or anything like that. The music you are looking at, that is like from Burt Bacharach, Stevie Wonder, Charlie Packer and all these kind of big people who put down that ground work of music. We want to do that.
I think they should, as I said before, [get musically educated] and we will be willing to help them and go through the scales and all that. You have to know a lot of scales and so on and it takes time and rehearsals. It is a technique too about playing the instrument and all of that. Jazz is a way of exploring your instrument. When you play one song and you play all these set of notes and thing, you explore the whole instrument right through. It is a sense of practicing all of that. When we go practice, we practice for hours. I practice for hours on the piano. You have to have that kind of discipline to do that. So my advice to them: if you want to get into Jazz, get into somebody who really knows music and what Jazz is about and learn with them.
The show was opened by the producer of the event and honorary member, Mr. Junior Hudson, a recognized name in the entertainment business. Following the brief opening, the band immediately took flight, taking the jazz lovers on a roller coaster ride of emotions throughout the entire show with a melodious and familiar set of jams like “Out of Nowhere”, “People Make the World go Round” and “How do you Keep the Music Playing?” In addition to the band’s outstanding performance, the vocal performances by Natalie Yorke who has toured all over the world with big Caribbean bands like Kassav, Blue Ventures and Exodus; Moricia Cagan who has been singing for fifteen years and who has performed with renowned Barbados saxophonist Atoro Tapin; and Jason ‘Fridge’ Seecharan, award-winning R&B artiste and founding member of the group H20 Phlo; kept the audience mesmerized and in the palm of their hands with each of their unique and dynamic styles.
The Roots of Jazz was a show of musical excellence, including the sounds of popular DJ Dale ‘Cutting Crew’ Samuel of Belmont and was well-received by an appreciative audience. After about three hours or so of an indelible groove, the show ended on a high note bringing the ecstatic jazz enthusiasts to their feet in thunderous applause.
Full of enthusiasm and a positive attitude about future plans for the band Goddard expressed:
We could have this weekly. We could go down by the Big Black Box and we could try and go to south. But, we have no sponsor so we have to try and call people and so on. He also felt that having an outdoor Jazz event could happen because what inspired me … I went to Jazz on the Greens on WASA grounds and it was amazing to see how many people were there, the atmosphere, everything was right there and the people were on stage performing and so on. I would like to get into that. Three years ago, we did the “Jazz Night” at We Beat. We had a girl named Keisha Stewart and she sang some good numbers with us and we had some soloists. Carnival time, we could do the Soca and after Carnival, we will get into all this. I want to go abroad and do clubs and all that.
The Launch of The Roots of Jazz in pictures: