Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 23rd 2015 Contents DALTON NARINE
Well, what d you know. Right there, in
book, chapter and verse, it was Abel s blood
that sprinkled on Cain s conscience and made
his brother vagrant and vagabondish.
True, there is a bitter irony of circumstance
that the arrangers of the two best steelbands
in Panorama have been longtime friends. Yet
it is the blood of Phase II Pan Groove that
made Trinidad All Stars blood boil, erupting
an out-of-character behavior In the large band
finals at the Queen s Park Savannah, Port-
of-Spain. Shucks, the Stars old Hell Yard
instincts kicked in with vengeance the way
the tussle came off back in 1986 when the
Phase all but had their first victory locked in
with Pan Rising as the drama in the Rama
pushed to a head. It started off crazy as hell.
"Blade, blade, I warning everybody, and
both sides sharp," the late Elibank Crichlow,
renowned Phase II lead player, shouted above
the midnight din to a coterie of pan music
buffs near the insane asylum in St Ann s.
If, as warned, Pan Rising would be the blade,
double-edged for richer (or bloodier) spoils
as it were, then amid the mystery of Panorama
Phase II Pan Groove s leader Len "Boogsie"
Sharpe would metaphorically sweat blood -
from a self-inflicted wound.
Fast-forward to the 2015 Panorama and all
you see or hear on the Drag and in the stands,
on Facebook, in nooks and crannies every-
where, is the notion that Trinidad All Stars
are in the business of chromaticisms. Their
music is encumbered by too many, more runs
than an ol whore s stockings (Let s clear the
air here; those fancy lines by the tenor panists
are controlled extemporisations).
All such talk, though, is no botheration for
Cool Hand Smooth, aka Leon Edwards, the
band s arranger with a new role as ambush
strategist. Smooth would choose senior band
member and composer Clive Telemaque s
composition, Unquestionable, and manager
Beresford Hunte would see it like a layman---
a song with such a high degree of difficulty
as to scare even hardcore supporters, though
nary a player. Indeed, Telemaque s first offering
was rejected out of hand, and he must have
recalled 1986 when pan talk focused on the
Phase s rising pan, as well as All Stars, who
Town had long dubbed "the final night band."
Now, here s Telemaque in the panyard deliv-
ering Unquestionable to the maestro. The song
reaching the arranger as motifs, idioms and
Smooth right away plays it on the pans and
exults over its possibilities. "This is it," he tells
Fine, but will he dust off the template? Sup-
posedly serious steelband people may want
to know. About those chromaticisms they run
their mouth about, do the critics have a point,
you ask him.
"This year s song was easier to arrange,"
Smooth said on the eve of the finals. "It
would ve been more difficult if the idioms
were scarce. Carnival is participation and our
music is very syncopated. Makes you want to
dance. Look at it this way, Trinidad is syn-
copated. It s why the foreigners have a hard
time chipping. Follow the middle pans, is your
answer. And the basses. Hear the conversa-
For a deeper understanding of the genesis
of the pan wars between the Woodbrook band
and its Duke Street counterpart, it is necessary
to rewind to the 86 Panorama. Bowled over
by Phase II and its passionate rendition of Pan
Rising, you could tell that the audience had
no doubt experienced the magnificence of
connubial bliss. So much so that at a pivotal
moment, in mid-stream of All Stars perform-
ance of The Hammer, you got the sense that
Smooth was under pure pressure. So profound
as to inspire Catelli, the band s erstwhile spon-
sor and nickname, to pull out all the stops.
The most difficult thing is the decision to
act, the rest is merely tenacity.
Smooth translated American author Amelia
Earhart s maxim as an array of dissonant
chords that sang about Rudolph Charles pain,
The Hammer, wracked by diabetes and a bad
leg, having passed away the previous year in
the aftermath of the Carnival.
A tribute to the band s championship skills,
those chords mattered, for the arranger had
climaxed the rendition with a nifty embel-
lishment of the chorus line. The intention to
mimic the destruction of mariners beguiled
by the song of the Sirens in Greek mythology
was a seductive vision, and benefited plenty.
De crowd start to roar, channelling in Scrunter s
Woman on the Bass.
Meanwhile, Neville Jules, a steelband pioneer
and former captain of Trinidad All Stars, who
had flown in from his digs in Brooklyn, New
York, dropped this bomb: "I don t know why
all these people seem to forget that we are
Catelli Trinidad All Stars. They don t know
about this man, Smooth, who relishes giving
rival bands a heart attack at this time of the
year. What we have is not a hammer, but a
sledge hammer. Ah, they don t know."
• Continues on Page A31
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, February 23, 2015
Phase II vs Trinidad All Stars - A Saga for The Ages
The spilling of blood
Members of Massy Trinidad All Stars perform on their way to winning the National Panorama title at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain
last Saturday. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
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