May 19th, 8pm, at Glenn Gould Studio
Available at the Roy Thomson Hall box office
Music fans in Trinidad and Tobago know a good Caribbean Latin jazz band when they hear one, and Toronto supergroup CaneFire has earned their enthusiastic embrace. Having been featured three times at the Trinidad and Tobago Steelpan and Jazz Festival and having earned high praise from the Trinidad and Tobago Express—an authority on the music if ever there was one—CaneFire is now releasing a sophomore album, Pandemonium, featuring no less than the legendary “Bob Marley of soca,” David Rudder, and the equally legendary Brazilian jazz innovator Hermeto Pascoal (pr: Ermeto Pas-QUAL).
The follow-up to 2005’s Kaiso Blue, Pandemonium embodies all the sizzle and twice the sophistication of its predecessor. It is a hard-hitting blend of Latin and Caribbean rhythms from all corners of the continent, all packaged up with a jazz sensibility and played with a passion that blows the lid off of Caribbean music stereotypes.
Now five years old, CaneFire is sounding uber tight and together on Pandemonium, with a lot more trading off between lead instruments, a lot more complexity to the compositions, and a lot more diversity too—with the addition of more Brazilian and Venezuelan sounds to its already eclectic mix of Cuban, Puerto Rican, French-Caribbean and Trinidadian influences. The album opens with “The Madman’s Jig,” an outrageously energetic number written in 27/4 time. Jokes bandleader Jeremy Ledbetter, “you don’t notice you can’t dance to it ‘til you try.” Other notable tracks include “Baptism by Fire,” CaneFire’s take on a hybrid Trinidadian church music called “gospelypso”; “Donna Lee Goes South,” a calypisified cover of Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee”; and “The Fountain of Youth,” an epic journey through the Amazon featuring Venezuelan guest vocalist Eliana Cuevas as well as the iconic Pascoal. There are also two tracks inspired by the birth last spring of Ledbetter and Cuevas’ daughter, Leila. The first is “Welcome Home,” a gentle ballad which combines Afro-Brazilian rhythm with a Trinidad steelband. The second is the final bonus track, “If I Could Sing,” which Ledbetter crafted around the babbling sounds of the then five-month-old Leila. A final song of note on the recording is the distinctly CaneFire cover of “Trini 2 D Bone,” Trinidad’s unofficial national anthem. David Rudder, the soca legend behind the original also sings on the CaneFire version.
The participation of Rudder and Pascoal in the creation of Pandemonium testifies to the esteem in which CaneFire is held in the world of Caribbean and Latin music. In addition to performing at the aforementioned Steelpan and Jazz Festival, it has also played the Tobago Jazz Experience, where, according to the Trinidad and Tobago Express, they “sizzled from their opening item right through to the end of a set that had the audience cheering and clapping throughout.” The group has also performed at the El Hatillo Jazz Festival in Caracas, Venezuela.
It is little wonder the band is so well-regarded when one considers the qualifications of its members. Bandleader and chief composer Ledbetter has been Rudder’s musical director, producer and arranger since 2002. Trinidadian-Canadian steelpan master Mark Mosca has performed with Vince Mendoza, Robert Greenidge, and Shaka Khan. Cuban-Canadian trumpeter Alexis Baro has played with Wynton Marsalis, The Temptations, Sheila E and Jon Secada. Cuban-Canadian drummer Chendy Leon works regularly with top Canadians Jesse Cook and Amanda Martinez, and has also backed Cubans such as Changuito, Paquito D’Rivera, and Hilario Duran. Cuban-Canadian percussionist Alberto Suarez has supported Jane Bunnett and Andy Narell, and Cuban-Canadian bassist Yoser Rodriguez has played with Alex Cuba, Salsafrica, and leading Cuban salsa bands like Rojitas, Fiebre Latina, and El Gato Con Botas. Rounding out the band is Canadian sax and flute player Braxton Hicks, one of the jazz scene’s hottest up-and-comers.
In addition to performing at hotbeds of Latin jazz and Calypso music, CaneFire has also been featured at key festivals across Canada, including Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, The Vancouver Folk Music Festival, The Beaches Jazz Festival, The Harrison Festival of the Arts, the Mission Folk Fest and the Atlantic Jazz Festival. Its upcoming CD launch concert is a chance to see the band playing its hottest material yet, making for an evening that is not to be missed.