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Big Band music makers a hit at WeBeat

Published: 
Thursday, June 15, 2017
Errol Ince, left, conducts the Melody Makers band as Debra Bartholomew performs Natalie Cole's What A Difference A Day Makes. PHOTOS: DION ROACH

A review by David Cuffy The St James Amphitheatre was swinging like it was 1940 last week Thursday night, when Errol Ince and the Music Makers Orchestra came to play at the WeBeat festival.

For just over two hours the 20-member orchestra transported its audience back to the 1940s playing hit songs by legendary musical icons inclusive of Glen Miller, Tito Puente, Count Basie, and Perez Prado in a well-preserved sound of the “big band era.”

“It has long been a dream of mine to put together a big band in Trinidad and Tobago, and it has finally happened,” Ince told the small audience before the start of the programme for which admission was free to the public.

Ince’s distinctive trumpet has been the trademark imprint behind many of the most memorable recordings in all of this country’s musical history. The majority of band members were graduants of the Music Literacy course he conducts at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).

Beginning the evening with a brief version of Miller’s In The Mood, the group quickly established the energy and spirit that would make for a lively show.

The formally-attired musicians filled the open-air space with many of the musical gems made popular when Miller helmed his band several decades ago. His unique sound of clarinet over saxophones was heard in riff-based versions of Tuxedo Junction, American Patrol, String of Pearls, Moonlight Serenade, and Pennsylvania 65000.

Ace arranger/composer/musician Leston Paul, guesting on keyboards, led the aggregation through his scintillating interpretation of the late Kitchener’s (Aldwyn Roberts) 1986 composition Pan In A Minor, after which the Music Makers smoothly transitioned into riveting versions of Skokiian from Perez Prado, Mambo King from Tito Puente, and Count Basie’s Lil Darlin’, Vine Street Rumble, and Jumping At The Woodside. Ince directed the band and introduced the songs, adding some details as to their origins.

Guest artistes included reigning national calypso monarch Chalkdust (Dr Hollis Liverpool), Debra Bartholomew, and Krisson Joseph. Between them we heard Chalkie’s winning composition Learn From Arithmetic, Bartholomew’s take on songs by Natalie Cole, Sarah Vaughn, Barbara Streisand and Shirley Bassey; and Joseph’s repertoire of Frank Sinatra selections.

The orchestra then offered a strong arrangement of the song most associated with the extraordinary trumpet playing skills of Errol Ince—Oh Mein Papa—to bring the evening to a resounding conclusion.

It has long been a dream of mine to put together a big band in Trinidad and Tobago, and it has finally happened. — Errol Ince