Andy Narell - The Passage
AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson
Anyone who thinks the steel drums are limited to calypso and other native West Indian styles has obviously never heard Andy Narell or his collaborators on this disc, the French band Calypsociation. Narell's compositions take the music headlong into jazz, and the richness of the steel pan sound ripples and sways throughout. For added flavor and texture, guests Michael Brecker, Paquito D'Rivera, and Hugh Masekela bring their horns, but they're the icing on a swinging cake (full praise to the percussionists who make the whole ensemble swing). The music is deliciously complex without ever sounding it. It works just as well on slower pieces like "Song for Mia," where the drums create a latticework of melody that remains gorgeously balanced. Granted, at times it veers perilously close to smooth jazz, but then it always steers faultlessly as far as melody is concerned. The extended pieces, like the title cut and "Coffee Street," sail through moods, and "Dee Mwa Wee" offers slightly darker hues in its lovely minor key, with Masekela's flügelhorn bubbling gently over the top. You have to hand it to Narell; his imagination and skill have made the steel pans into a mainstream instrument.