The Sel Duncan Orchestra of Trinidad

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the smooth sounds of the Sel Duncan Orchestra , featuring his sweet, silvery toned alto saxophone were the preferred soundtracks for formal and semi-formal parties and dances , and his was a household name in T&T. Highly respected and admired for his skill withthe saophone , he was awarded the Public Service of Merit Silver Medal in 1972.

Sel Duncan attracted a more mature, sophisticated crowd, and a function that featured that band usually required formal wear – formal dresses for women, and suits for men.

The Sel Duncan repertoire included arrangements of classics, big band standards,Latin and pop tunes and of course calypso.

Here is a taste of this classic Trinidad dance band, with an arrangement of the First Movement of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” From the album “Poetry In Rhythm” (1962)

The Sel Duncan Orchestra – Moonlight Sonata

The 1960 album “Concert in the Hall” was a collection of slow (bolero ) and moderate calypso tempo tunes that were very popular with the older , more conservative crowd back then.

The Carnegie Hall Medley was a sweet , sensuous medley of classics by Tchaikovsky , Rachmaninoff , Greigg and Chopin.

The Sel Duncan Orchestra – The Carnegie Hall Medley

The Sel Duncan Orchestra featured a stellar cast of musicians of the era , including Sel Duncan on alto saxophone , Victor Koward on tenor sax , Lionel Richards on guitar , Kevin Mitchell on piano, Gordon Besson bass andTerry Reyes on drums. Also, Peter Gill on bongos and Robert Clarke on tumba.

sel duncan 1
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An example of a more up-tempo verson from the band is this arrangement of the tune “The Blob” , from the 1958 movie of the same name that introduced actor Steve McQueen in his debut role.

The Sel Duncan Orchestra – The Blob

In the nineteen fifties and early sixties the Sel Duncan Orchestra was recognized as one of the top dance bands in the Eastern Caribbean , particularly at formal dances and societal functions.

They were also one of the most musically influential bands around , and helped define the sounds of their era.

One thing , though.

You sure didn’t work up much of a sweat at a Sel Duncan Dance 🙂

Here is their typical mellow  arrangement of a calypso “Dragon”.

The Sel duncan orchestra – dragon

The sublime sweetnes of the alto saxophone played by Mr. Sel Duncan himself can clearly be heard in this sweet arrangementnof the Bolero “Meditation”. One can almost see in the mind’s eye the formally dressed couples, as they glided to the flow of the music at some formal event in a location like the Palm’s Club in San Fernando , on a beautiful tropical evening , sometime in the early nineteen sixties.

The Sel Duncan Orchestra – Meditation

Like music bands of that era , the Sel Duncan band was expert in many different music genres , since this was expected by the party goers who demanded dance music to suit the variety of dance styles popular back then.

Here is their arrangement of “Cielito lindo“, a popular Mexican song from the late eighteen hundreds.

Sel Duncan Orchestra – Cielito Lindo

The Sel Duncan orchestra and its music is a special reminder of its time and place , the calmer , quieter , more genteel Trinidad and Tobago of the nineteen fifties and early sixties.

SEL DUNCAN (1924-1983)

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