Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 5th 2017 Contents B40 sunday arts
guardian.co.tt Sunday, March 5, 2017
ist Arturo Tappin,
with long greying
by a feathered
bowler hat, long grey beard and
a handlebar mustache, his slen-
der frame clad in a form-fitting
red suit, stood out before he even
Performing at Queen's Hall re-
cently, Tappin was armed with a
selection of saxophones completely
covered with what looked liked dia-
monds (they're actually Swarovski
He and his three-man band
offered up crowd-pleaser after
crowd-pleaser, starting off with a
cover of Rupee's Tempted to Touch,
then encouraging the audience to
sing and clap along to their take on
Krosfyah's Pump Me Up.
He often ended a song with an
extended riff on the sax that de-
lighted the audience even more.
He moved energetically across the
stage, eventually wading between
the rows of seats at the end of his
set, for a rousing performance of the
2017 soca hit Full Extreme.
At one point, when he added his
vocals to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,
the reaction from the audience was
such that it would not have been
surprising to see women's under-
wear sailing up to the stage.
Backstage afterward, Tappin said
he aims to maximise an audience's
entertainment by adapting set lists
and approaches to the venue and the
composition of the crowd.
"I do a different show for every
audience in terms of style, choices
of music," he said.
"This audience, I think, is more
of a listening audience," he said of
Queen's Hall. "I would do a lot more
improvisation and stuff like that. It
would not have been the same for
Jazz on the Beach in Tobago, where
there might be a younger crowd.
(There) I'll do pop, hip hop and
dancehall---(I'll have) a bigger band,
singers and dancing and all of that."
His appearance and that of his
band members are an important
part of the presentation.
"If you want to eat some food you
want it to look good, right?" he said.
"I want people to listen, so you got
to capture their eye, bring them in
(by) their ears, and then capture
He nodded to his pianist and bass-
ist, who were seated nearby.
"I spend days and days and days
thinking... you can ask them.. con-
versations with them---'What socks
you're wearing?' As important as the
repertoire is, so is the presentation,"
Tappin is a regular on the jazz
scene in T&T and throughout the
Sean Thomas, president of the
Jazz Alliance of T&T, which pre-
sented the recent concert featuring
Tappin and American jazz pianist
Arturo O'Farrill, said Tappin is prac-
tically a member of the organisation.
Tappin was known earlier in his
career for blending reggae and jazz.
That was the focus of his first two
albums, Strictly Roots Jazz and Java.
Then Raf Robertson, he said, intro-
duced him to "calypso jazz". Tappin
believes there's little difference be-
tween calypso, at least in its earlier
form, and jazz.
"All the great arrangers and musi-
cians that were involved in calypso
in the early days, I think personal-
ly they were all jazz musicians. Just
like ska in Jamaica," he said. "John
'Buddy' Williams and his crew-they
sound like jazz musicians to me. The
Skatalites sound like jazz musicians
to me. A lot of David Rudder music
sounds as though it has jazz influ-
"They always set the standard for
the music," he said. "That's less and
less so. And perhaps that's why the
music has changed."
Tappin said Robertson's interven-
tion helped him figure out a way to
improvise so "that I don't sound like
Charlie Parker or bebop"
"I asked some old calypsonians to
sing, and I recorded them. I realised
that there's a way melodically and
rhythmically to improvise over ca-
lypso to sound like you're from the
Caribbean. So I really worked at
that," he said.
"Clive Zanda, more than any-
body else, has a repertoire of orig-
inal music that a lot of Caribbean
musicians use to play calypso jazz,"
he said. "Probably the most prolific
composer right now for calypso jazz
is Etienne Charles."
'Opportunity, problems ahead
for today's musicians'
Tappin did an album with Trini-
dadian panman Liam Teague called
TNT (Teague and Tappin).
His 2007 album, Inside Out,
showed a range of influences: pop,
R&B, soul, funk, hip hop, dub, world
music and soca.
A 2015 album, Hello, a collabora-
tion with producer/panman Terry
"Mexican" Arthur, features pan/
sax renditions of Barbadian soca
hits. The album includes the orig-
inal track Soca Seduction, produced
with popular soca acts Alison Hinds,
Lil Rick, Lead Pipe and Saddis, and
Even though Tappin values
presentation and no doubt that
has helped build his profile, he's a
technically skilled and respected
musician known for working hard
to hone his craft.
He was trained at the Berklee
College of Music after starting off
playing the violin and clarinet as a
child. He began playing the sax at
15 as a prerequisite to joining a jazz
band that needed a saxophonist and
fell in love with the instrument.
He's worked with Roberta Flack,
Luther Vandross, Monty Alexander,
Eddie Grant, Third World and the
He sees opportunity and problems
ahead for today's musicians.
"It's a bit difficult now because
a couple of the jazz festivals have
stopped," he said. "This might be the
last year for St Lucia. Jamaica didn't
have one last year, and that is one of
the goals that young musicians set
for themselves, you know, 'I want
to play at this jazz festival.'
"Usually in the past a lot of people
would go to music school to study,"
he said of learning jazz today.
"Everything I studied at Berklee
in the 80s is now available online
for free," he said. "You don't have to
wait a year to buy a record by Charlie
Parker and try to learn it. You can go
online. Somebody already wrote it
out. You can grow pretty quickly."
Tappin and O'Farrill, appearing
on the same stage for the first time,
provided a study in contrasts. Tap-
pin's set was playful and dynamic,
closer to a pop performance, while
O'Farrill's was studied and intense,
closer to a classical performance.
O'Farrill never moved from his pi-
ano, only standing occasionally to
speak to the audience. In a patterned
jacket, with a long moss green scarf
around his neck, he and his octet
looked like they were dressed more
for comfort than to impress. But
both acts captivated the audience.
And even though they're close in
age, share acquaintances and Tappin
lived for a time in New York, where
O'Farrill is based, they never met.
And although they both had fathers
who were into jazz, their sharing the
same first name-one of the reasons
for calling the concert Take 2-was
Arturo was also the name of Tap-
"So I'm actually Arturo Tappin Jr,"
he said. "I can't tell you why (my
father's) dad named him that. I can
tell you why I only have one name,
Arturo. There's no middle name.
"My dad didn't want me to be
wasting time filling out forms," he
Barbadian saxophonist Arturo
Tappin on stage at Take 2, a jazz
concert staged at Queen's Hall, St
Ann's, February 15. Photo courtesy
The Jazz Alliance of T&T
Artist Marsha Trepte portrays Quechua in a costume with a strong
Andean look; Quechua is the name of an ethnic group and language
from South America. Trepte took part in the National Carnival
Commission's Conventional and Individuals mas competition at Adam
Smith Square, Woodbrook, on February 23.
PHOTO: EDISON BOODOOSINGH
Arturo Tappin: Putting style in jazz
FROM THE ANDES
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