A Watford Jazz Junction show on 21 May by steel pan wiz Leon Foster Thomas follows the release of Calasanitus.
Steel pan is not an obvious jazz instrument. Begs the question what actually is one? Clearly there are no ''official'' instruments given the infinite resource of the music which often transcends the tools in which the style is expressed, often rebelling against their strictest rules, orthodoxies and sometimes stifling etiquettes and levels of expectation. Of course the pan is more a staple of calypso but in the hands of London Trinidadian Leon Foster Thomas the instrument fits like a glove in context whether combining its essential slipping and sliding chromaticism with the boisterous trumpet soloing from John Daversa on 'I Am An Immigrant' where Thomas' lulling accompaniment caresses or elsewhere in developing a whole new strand of extemporisation as a lead line finds a second wind. On the latinate 'Bliss' an unbridled rhythmical flair certainly dances and bewitches.
Foster debuted in 2010 with What You Don’t Know followed 6 years later by Metamorphosis. This latest album, dedicated to his mother, was recorded in Miami. Saxist Troy Roberts - known for his work with Joey DeFrancesco and Van Morrison - takes centrestage on 'Silent Maze'. But rather than focusing on the guests direct thoughts instead towards the writing because the Thomas composed songs are a big plus factor and song lengths, between 6 and 9 minutes, allow enough time to find room to roam. Yes, originals you won't hitherto have known. And yet somehow you believe you do given the way the writing plugs into the feeling of quite expansively arranged jazz dotted by Caribbean sunshine that seems bigger than the relatively small group who have produced these sounds. Spanning a broad waterfront that erases genre and speaks more of often airy, summery, mood, pianist Tal Cohen plays an important role. And a light touch vocal element ethereally rendered contained on 'Dance of David' does not distract but adds another dimension to the solid instrumental ideas expressed throughout. Foster knows about flow and grasps completely how to make the sounds of the steel pan hang in the air and significantly stay the distance.
Released earlier in 2023 - thanks to Jazz FM's Ruth Fisher who alerted us to Calasanitus at Jazzahead. Ruth presents her Prosecco Jazz Brunch feat. John Altman at the Watford Jazz Junction on 13 May. Click for more