Monday, December 05, 2005

Greenidge 'Pan' Volcano Erupts in Bay Area

By Harry Best

The shear brilliance and shimmering charisma of the steelpan often overshadows the talent of the one playing it. But when the player’s undeniable musicianship bursts through to grab your attention, you’re delightfully awakened to the realization that something truly magical is taking place.

It was like that Saturday night at Cue Productions in Concord California when the affable Robbie Greenidge joined Jim Munzenrider’s Chabot Panhandlers for two outstanding performances. In short, the show more than lived up to its billing with tonal lyrics erupting and spewing from Greenidge’s double seconds like a “musical volcano”.

The Panhandlers had already served up the audience three impressive apertifs before Greenidge got onstage. Their third tune, Passage of Souls, was an enchanting number composed by Chris Tanner of Miami University of Ohio’s music department, with an interesting melange of soca and beguine rhythms adroitly delivered by Munzenrider on traps.

Flanked by blonde starlets Anna Talamo and Stephanie Jones, Greenidge launched into his first number, From the Heart, the title tune on his latest CD. With evident affection and familiarity he led the audience to the emotional source of this original composition. The Panhandlers have to be commended here for matching his energy with flawless accompaniment.

After a couple of tunes, including a version of One Note Samba that defied the title, the band recessed but remained in place with fixed attention on the pan Master as he knitted and weaved a colorful solo that left mouths open in awe. The band joined him again for Paradise Garden, another tune from his CD, which I personally felt, sounds better arranged for pans than for the conventional instrumentation on his CD.

The show climaxed with Musical Volcano, written almost 12 years ago but dedicated Saturday night to his late great mentor Clive Bradley whose funeral Greenidge attended in Trinidad and Tobago just two days earlier. From here the show reclined into another solo of the Beatles’ Long and Winding Road and ended in a crescendo of Lord Kitchener’s Fever. Yeah!

Enough cannot be said about Munzenrider’s dedication to pan and its musical culture. Over the years he has treated Bay Area audiences, and his band members, to nothing but the top purveyors of the art form, including Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe, Andy Narell, Ray Holman, David Rudder, Liam Teague and now, Robert Greenidge.

On top of that, the area can now boast of having a top notch steelband on par with any international act of its kind.

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