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The best of Caribbean jazz at UWI

Friday, March 12 2010

click on pic to zoom in
The William Roblejo Trio...
The William Roblejo Trio...

THE EIGHTH edition of the premier open-air jazz concert in Trinidad and Tobago, Jazz Artists on the Greens, presented by Production One Ltd, will be held at the Centre for Creative and Festival Arts, UWI, St Augustine, on March 20.

The 2010 edition of the event will highlight local and Caribbean jazz performers, and further expand the repertoire for jazz lovers on the island.

Woodbrook Playboyz will perform on the lawn prior to the main stage event. The featured performers on the main stage are Kalabash, a Caribbean jazz group based in Canada featuring Anthony Pierre of TT; Afrolypso, featuring steelpan master Jason Baptiste; Cuban violin sensation William Roblejo performing with his trio; hot young jazz vocalist, R'kardo St'von; and powerhouse vocalist Brenda Butler.

William Roblejo is an excellent violin player who has paved a way as a professional artiste in several popular music bands in his native Cuba. As violin player, he has developed a strong career as part of important bands that play Cuban pop, trova, son and fusion music, including the David Torrens Band. From the technical perspective, he is well-known for his brilliant executions of his instrument; which is why he is a member of the Amadeo Roldán string quartet of the Cuban National Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as one of the rising stars in the Cuba Interactivo project.

Roblejo teaches violin in the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory of music in Havana while concurrently heading the String Cathedra of the mentioned institution. He is currently concluding his formal studies in Violin at the High Institute of Arts in Cuba (ISA).

In Cuba, William Roblejo has shared the stage with several internationally recognised musicians, and has performed at various festivals and venues in Europe and Latin America. He has appeared on a number of CDs including the international best seller, Buena Vista Social Club.

Jason Baptiste was born in Point Fortin, and from the age of five he began beating his first tunes on milk tins. Born into a family of musicians, it is from within this fold that he began his musical career. From pan player to arranger, Jason seemed to follow the typical path of Trinidadian musicians, however very soon his ambitions surpassed the culture of his own country.

Going against main stream and challenging technical difficulty, Jason chose to play double tenor with four sticks instead of two. With his instrument Jason produces new and richer chords which give him the freedom to venture into other musical genres like jazz or European classical music. Jason Baptiste is without doubt, a master of the art of playing double tenor pans with four sticks and he recognises pioneer pannist Earl Rodney as his mentor.

Guided by the Trinidadian elders (Earl Rodney, Errol Goodridge, Wilfred Woodley, Pat Robertson and Fortunia Ruiz) and innovating with the new generation (Michael and Felix Ruiz), Jason has built his reputation in the jazz circles of Trinidad and Tobago. He opened the Trinidad and Tobago Pan Jazz Festival II in 1989, with the Ruiz Brothers.

Jason was initially recognised as an extraordinary musician with a Copyright Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT) award as Pannist of the Year in 1988.

Since then he has been travelling around the world with many different groups. In 2003 Jason found a base in France. He performed at the 22nd Festival de Jazz de Saint Gilles croix de vie in France, with his own band in 2005.

Jason also performed as a trio with renowned French guitarist Daniel Givone in Jazz in Longourla France in 2006.

He has recorded a number of CDs, with Bwa Lélé and, Vineyard Vibes, his solo effort, produced during his sojourn in France in 2003. He recently produced a CD with his mentor, Earl Rodney and launched his new band, Afrolypso.

r'kardo st'von (Ricardo Stevon Mendoza) grew up in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, where his passion for music and performance was developed by an eclectic exposure to different genres from the early age of eight. In Trinidad, he worked and trained with music teachers Barbara Harris and Myrtle Cumberbatch at Fatima College, acclaimed musicologist Geraldine O'Connor, and award winning songwriter Sterling Gittens.

A talented calypsonian as well, his witty and lyrically sound compositions captured the Republic Bank Calypso King title on three occasions and he was also a finalist in Trinidad's National Young Kings competition.

Together with vocalist Shereen Mc Donald, r'kardo captured the hearts of Trinidad in the semi-finals of Scouting for Talent 1997 performing a unique duet version of Stevie Wonder's “Ngicuelela, I am singing”.

As a contempary vocalist, he was also the second place winner of the Courts “Have a Heart” Competition in 1996 in a field of 30 finalists. After moving to New York in 1999, this progression culminated with a BFA (with an emphasis on jazz performance) in music/theatre from New York's Marymount College in 2002, and training with Musical Theatre Works Tony nominated director Lonny Price and actress/ singer Fredi Walker-Browne.

His theatrical credits include off Broadway credit in New York for the Interborough Repertory Theatre touring company of The Roots of Rap and the NETworks touring company of Rent; acting credits for several television commercials and jingles while growing up in Trinidad. He is currently working with Rent alumni Fredi Walker Browne on an original theatrical piece based around the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

r'kardo has performed, and continues to do, his unique blend of original and standard material, jazz fusion and acoustic soul music at New York's own Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Cami Hall, funk poetry spot The Chocolate Monkey, Ashford and Simpson's Sugar Bar, Bedstuy's Solomon's Porch, open mic spot Village Underground, and the infamous Brooklyn Moon Café with his band 'the rhapsodie collective' featuring Ado Coker on keys and Thierry Remion on guitar.

Brenda Butler is an avid music lover with a penchant for singing. While growing up her musical loves ranged from Brooke Benton to Elton John, from The Jacksons to Genesis. However, she spent her teenage years singing predominantly classical music in school choirs and music festivals, and having lead roles in several school productions. Hailing from San Fernando, she continued with the PresCon Alumni Choir after graduation, and expanded her musical horizons in the early 90s by joining The Belvedere (conducted by Richard Tang Yuk), with solos in two productions – South Quay Story and An Evening with Cole Porter.

While studying in Florida from 1992 to 1996, Brenda was a soloist in the gospel group Colour Blind, which journeyed to Chile, Brazil and throughout the US, playing at major concert halls like the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1995 Colour Blind recorded a live album, and subsequently did the Creation Tour '96 at various venues throughout Florida.

Brenda returned to Trinidad in 1996 and continues to share her talent when opportunities arise. In 2009, one such opportunity took her back to Nashville's Grand Ole Opry to sing at the 40th Annual Dove Music Awards as part of the choir backing gospel greats such as Edwin ("O Happy Day") Hawkins, Donnie McClurkin, Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary. Most recently, she was a featured artist in Production One Ltd's SONGBIRDS...live 2009 series which showcased up and coming female Caribbean vocalists.

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