Monday May 21 , 2018
This arrangement of “The Good , The Bad and The Ugly” from the classic Serge Leone western remains an All Stars favorite to this day.
One of pan’s elite pioneers, Jules introduced the tune boom, a biscuit drum with four notes, to fatten the music like a box bass would. Later, a caustic soda drum captured the full-bodied effect he’d aimed for. Further experiments led to the “Chaguaramas bass,” which carried the lowest register of the day on 55-gallon drums.
Jules also invented a pan to simulate the strumming of the cuatro. Furthermore, the Grundig, or cello pan, was his, too.
With the impact of the first Bomb, “Minuet in G,” still smouldering, I found a place where I could play music night and day without my father’s knowledge, without him low-thinking that I was an outcast.
(He thought I was studying with friends in the East Dry River area where we lived.) One evening, a friend and I took nervous steps up a few stairways of a popular Charlotte Street dive to the famous Garret above. (We got to the top by weaving through a knot of women on the hustle and sashaying up and down the pavement – the sulphurous Mayfield and her prostitute friends; and we jittered like Cub Scouts as we walked through a men’s club, a gambling den, on the second floor leading to the Garret.) Boy, we reach! We had met the stern man himself, and formally joined his merry band. Hell with the piano. Mozart on steel had become chic. A tenor pan even had my name painted on the belly.
The Garret was a cramped, musty attic sitting atop the Maple Leaf like an old man’s bent-up hat. The “pan attic,” however, had an intangible quality. In abstract, it posed as a small museum where historical artifacts exhibited in the head and the works of art performed in the ear. It creaked and hummed and sang and, at nights during the carnival, it sent out a dozen calypsos. It hardly accommodated the full band. We played in shifts. The music was fed, through a small window, to the many scores who lined both sides of Charlotte Street to listen in the dark, so to speak.
It was the year of Barcarolle, Intermezzo and Liebestraum. Jules’ Bombs had helped recruit 4,000 “sailors” for the annual road show of music, dance and comedy.
Panorama Finals 1969 Live in the Queen’s Park Savannah. This tune was arranged by “Mr Trinidad All Stars ” himself, the Legendary Neville Jules.
Over the years, we played Musetta’s Waltz, Ballet Egyptien, In a Persian Market, Fingal’s Cave, Cara Nome, Anniversary Waltz, Dvorak’s 9th Symphony, Barber of Seville, Countess Maritza, Marriage of Figaro, Mozart’s Horn Concerto, among countless others.
The Bombs, which largely supplanted the piano lessons taught in Ms. St. Aude’s living room on Abercromby Street, counted for only part of the whole experience. For example, Cap’s influence for the good has impacted my life — dedication. Of course, his predilection for the “bad” (the Bombs) altered my taste in music. And he addressed the ugly in pan through police barracks discipline – through Prince Batson, the first panman to wrap the sticks in rubber, according to Jules.
All that to say, Cap made a difference in my life because I never drank, or cussed (until the army indoctrinated me), or illegally buss anyone’s head. And I’ve not been overly late for anything. You couldn’t mess with Cap’s Riot Act. You’d be fined for any infraction. That included visiting other panyards.
One night, during an after-hours fingertip session, Mano, a tenor player, said he couldn’t stay. “Look the door there,” Jules said. “But if you leave, don’t come back.” Well, Mano practiced through the wee hours until he passed “the exam.”
Another time, a best friend of Jules brought a drink into the Garret during rehearsal, ignoring an earlier warning. He racked up so many fines he didn’t get paid after the Carnival. Though the slight unsettled him, he was back the following year. New guys didn’t receive a penny in their first year. and the rule endowed each the privilege of being an All Star. (Hear Jules – about the band’s name change after World War II: “Some Casablanca fellas was listening to us rehearse one night, and one said, ‘All ah all yuh is stars, boy.’ And the rest is history.”)
Discipline notwithstanding, the Bombs and the Garret defined the band’s moxie in the ’60s. Bully, a second pan player, put the word “Bomb” into the lexicon of pan after telling a rival band, “Wait till we drop the Bomb on all yuh Monday morning.” Bully had suggested “Intermezzo” to Jules, though he was unaware it was classical music. He’d heard it as a bolero at a dance. Jules also received a supply of symphonic records from an enthusiast who lived Behind the Bridge. Mainly, though, Jules’ inspiration came from the cubicle of a store on Henry Street that catered to sportsmen as well as highbrow music lovers.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the watershed moment a few years ago when a young fella scolded Jules – who’d owned up to a mistake he’d made on the iron during a Panorama rehearsal.Mind you, Jules was absent the night before. Edwards, the arranger, had inserted a stop. “Wey yuh was? Yuh shoulda been here,” the guy shouted from behind his pan. Cap, not amused, put down the iron and walked away, for good, the poor fella ignorant of the cross this man bear for pan.
Happy Birthday, Cap.
I met “Cap” for the first time on labor Day, 2013 in Brooklyn , NY. I was so thrilled that I didn’t think to take a photo with him , to my great regret. – Glenroy Joseph
Dalton Narine wrote a version of this story for the Trinidad Express in 2007. When he called to birthday-up his former captain, they talked for about 45 minutes.
They talked about pan.