Review By Terry Joseph
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October 24, 2001
Saturday night’s In Celebration of Excellence concert went far beyond its originally scheduled midnight closing time, but nearly one hour later, the audience was giving Exodus not one but two encores.
Sub-titled Pan Royale, the fund raising concert was held at the Queen’s Royal College (QRC) grounds and some 1,500 patrons braved the $100 ticket price, a bargain when you consider the combination of worthy cause and exquisite entertainment.
Interestingly, a number of high-profile pan aficionados flew in from the US to be at Pan Royale, among them superstar percussionist Ralph MacDonald, virtuoso Robert Greenidge and internationally acclaimed bassist David "Happy" Williams. Selwyn Lloyd who, by his admission, just loved last year’s concert, also winged in for the show.
Among those batting for the local pan fraternity were Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold, his predecessor Owen Serrette, InnCogen Pamberi manager Nestor Sullivan and Anthony "Ben-up" Kinsale of Laventille Serenaders single-pan band; who bought tickets for six of his younger players.
Also seen were former carnival chairman Al Roberts, US Embassy Charge D’Affaires David Stewart, Canadian Embassy PR officer Lynne Murray, ex Defence Force Chief Carl Alfonso and wife Leslie, Canute Spencer, Emile Charles and NCC Commisioner Bro Resistance.
On stage were Mungal Patasar’s Pantar, Witco Desperadoes outfitted in evening suits, Petrotrin Phase II Pan Groove and Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars (who went for patterned shirts and Exodus in shimmering silver tops. Each steel orchestra enhanced with guest artistes.
Desperadoes brought saxophonist Pedro Lezama, Phase II presented Denyse Plummer, Trinidad All Stars went for Sheldon Reid and Exodus gave us soul-singer Mavis John, keyboardist Pelham Goddard, Francis Prime on saxophone and five-time calypso monarch Black Stalin.
Pantar opened with its perennially attractive fusion of sitar and pan, delivering a slew of songs, including "Old Lady Walk a Mile and a Half" and "Indian Bacchannal". Their advertised guest, rapso act 3-Canal was forced to miss the event, having to go abroad at short notice.
Desperadoes, under the baton of former Regiment bandmaster Edouard Wade, opened with Bach’s "Air on a G String", then mixed it up nicely, with a repertoire including the jazz standard "Tangerine", before Lezama joined them for Stevie Wonder’s "Sir Duke" and Kenny G’s "Songbird". A nice touch came via a parang selection "Din, Din, Din". They ended with Oba’s "In My House", one of their classic panorama triumphs.
Phase II Pan Groove, with Len "Boogsie" Sharpe in the frontline (and long-standing player Black Allman ensuring fellow pannists communicated the spirit of each rendition), followed Despers and with an equally interesting repertoire. We heard Kitchener’s "Pan Night and Day", Milt Jackson’s "SKJ" and "Thank you, Mr Grover (Washington)" from Sharpe’s impending CD Fresh Air II, before Plummer lit up the stage with her prize-winning "Nah Leavin" and the band’s panorama successes "Pan Rising" and "Woman is Boss". At every sequence, there were scintillating solos from bandleader/virtuoso Sharpe.
Intermission suffered an unwanted extension, when confusion arose between Desperadoes and Trinidad All Stars over a drum set. According to organisers, each of the two steel orchestras in the first half were asked to leave its drum kit in place for bands performing in the second segment.
Apparently, Desperadoes remained unaware of this arrangement and dismantled its kit, forcing Trinidad All Stars to hurriedly dash back to its downtown panyard to pick up a drum set, incurring the delay.
But when the legendary Trinidad All Stars did get underway, they rallied the crowd with a combination that included work from Santana and Elton John and a tribute to their musical arranger Leon "Smooth" Edwards. They were joined by Reid for the Titanic Theme and popular Beres Hammond hit "They Gonna Talk", before earning the night’s only standing ovation for their 1980 blockbuster "Woman on the Bass".
Then it was time for reigning panorama champions Exodus, whose staged introduction of Pelham Goddard soloing on David Rudder’s "Dus’ in Dey Face" allowed pannists to file in and fall in with the song, bringing it to a rousing climax.
Exodus clearly concentrated on entertainment, rather than merely executing the work. Their set included Andre Tanker’s "Steelband Times", Mavis John was in with "Jazz in de Callaloo", there was the Gipsy Kings’ "Bamboleo" and a rock and roll medley, before Francis Prime joined for George Benson’s "On Broadway".
In their rendition of Kitchener’s "Sugar Bum Bum", the band saluted its hosts with a passage of the school’s football rally "QRC, We Want a Goal", swelling a chorus of like minds. When Black Stalin did his slot ("Mr Panmaker") there were many who thought he should have stayed for at least another song, but it was the end – or so we thought.
The wonderful audience, as MC Winston Maynard frequently described it, dropped all sense of decorum and chanted "More!" "More!" forcing arranger Goddard to quickly whip the band into Shadow’s "Stranger" but not even that satisfied them. Exodus then had to do a Sparrow medley before the 1 am chime from the clock tower brought closure to Pan Royale.