Andy Narrell – The Passage

Andy Narell and Calypsociation
The Passage: Music for Steel Orchestra
(Heads Up – 2004)
by Matthew Robinson

After a tough winter (or anytime), there’s nothing like escaping to the islands for some tropical relaxation. For those of us who can’t get away right now (or practically ever), steel drum ace Andy Narell offers an inexpensive alternative. Backed by the 30-plus-piece band Calypsociation, Narell takes listeners from the percolative (if not jittery) “Coffee Street” to the sparkling and more tranquil “Sea of Stories.” On most of the seven tracks, the band is in such harmony that their playing often sounds like the work of one giant, resonant drum.

However, the album is accented with a number of impressive solos and musical diversions, including those by sax masters Michael Brecker and Paquito D’Rivera and flugelhorn hero Hugh Masakela, who gives the onomatopoetically titular sound to “Dee Mwa Wee.” And even though Narell may take “The Long Way Back” (which is ironically the shortest piece) down a bumpy road, most of “The Passage” is at turns relaxing, energizing, and very danceable; a great musical trip no matter where you are.

© 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR