Jazz is about living in the moment – experiencing the uninhibited expression of raspy notes and broad sounds dripping with improvisation. When those sounds are drizzled with Caribbean flavor, they transform an already compelling, influential musical genre. The diverse musical palate of the Caribbean is one that samples a variety of cultures. There are drums which beckon to regions of Africa, strings reminiscent of areas in Asia, and horns that shout past the edges of the Caribbean sea. When these elements are coupled with the original, bluesy notes and harmonious instrumentals, an incomparable melody that pervades all societies and cultures.
Here are seven Caribbean jazz musicians who are diversifying the world of contemporary jazz.
Photo Courtesy of Xavier Strings
Janine and Janelle Xavier are sisters who explore the versatility of string instruments in their music. Their high energy band – Xavier Strings – marries modern electronic instruments with the classical sounds of the violin and viola. The band has traveled overseas to perform in Europe and in other Caribbean countries, both as an ensemble and individually as soloists. Their music spans across genres as they create a new, diverse interpretation of music.
Photo Courtesy of Joseph Leo Callender
Young saxophonist Joseph Callender was born and raised on the island of Barbados. His artistry reflects his love for life, a strong, classic tone, and smooth dynamics that certainly suggest he is a star on the rise. He received a scholarship from the Barbados Community College’s Music Program, which first enabled him to travel to Toronto and experience the jazz program at Humber College. He has a number of original compositions which he showcased at Frank Collymore Hall in Barbados. He will study jazz music at Humber College in Toronto, Canada this fall.
Photo Courtesy of Arturo Tappin
You can hear the Caribbean’s heartbeat in Arturo Tappin’s saxophone. Born and raised in Barbados, he received a scholarship to study music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. His music incorporates roots-reggae and jazz, as he is inspired by the culture and vibe of his beautiful island and the surrounding Caribbean islands. His album, Java
, bellows a rhythmic track featuring dub poet, Mutabaruka as well as a smooth rendition of Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry
. He has worked with stellar artists and currently works with Roberta Flack.
Photo Courtesy of Kamau Georges
Perhaps well-known because of his collaborations with Lady Gaga, Kamau Georges is a BVIslander and self-described vocalist, jazz saxophonist, music producer, and educator. He fell in love with the saxophone during his freshman year of high school in the British Virgin Islands, and honed his talents until he earned a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in 1997. His time at university peaked his interests in music production and audio engineering, and opened up to a new aspect of his musicianship. His sound is cross-generational and transcends musical genres.
Photo Courtesy of Maria Nunes via Etienne Charles
Born in Trinidad, Etienne Charles creates a mélange of rhythms and sounds with his trumpet. As a bandleader and composer, Charles widens the scope of American jazz by introducing a fusion of cultures into his music. His recordings have also been influenced by the rich sounds of reggae, rock steady, and calypso to name a few. This Florida State University & Juilliard jazz programs graduate uses his diverse sound and taste to entice and romance his audience. Charles is currently an associate professor at Michigan State University.
Photo Courtesy of Chardavoine Band
Jean Chardavoine is making an impact on the world of jazz with the introduction of Creole jazz. He describes his sound as “Haitian jazz with a funky twist,”
because it incorporates creativity, culture, and modernity. This guitarist expresses his roots and culture through his music, and uses it as a way to unite American jazz with his heritage. He released an album entitled The Tribute
in order to remind the world of the Haitian earthquake victims. He has created a world out of his passion for music and Haiti. and in doing so creates a new genre out of his passion.
Photo Courtesy of Roberto Fonseca
Cuban jazz pianist, Roberto Fonseca, was introduced to music at an early age by his father – a drummer – and his mother – a professional singer. He began playing the piano at the tender age of 8 and started experimenting with blending American jazz and Afro-Cuban music soon thereafter. His songs range from mellow to upbeat, and also carry powerful messages. Asi Es La Vida (That’s Life)
, from his 2012 album – Yo
– chronicles triumph after great disappoint and encourages the listener to not be overwhelmed by difficult moments in life. He is currently on tour in Europe with Mali singer – Fatoumata Diawara – to support their EP release – At Home (Jazz Village)