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Panorama Time was Bradley Time - The Great One Examined by master musician, arranger extraordinaire Frankie McIntosh

Global - He was simply the world's greatest steelpan music arranger. Moreover, he was the one the titans of pan bowed to. This was his stage, his arena, his moment. This was his time. Panorama was "Bradley Time." Master arranger Clive Bradley, more so than any other, shaped and elevated the music and theatre of the panorama as we know it.

We revisit a musical examination of some of the Master's works by one of the most respected and gifted music talents out of the Caribbean. Frankie McIntosh provides us with an intellectual, as well as a critical and culturally perceptive interpretation of these selected panorama music works from the arranger.

In a special music extraordinaire, take a musical look at one of the recordings.

click for - audio version

 

 

Pantonic Live! -
A Critical Review

By -- Frankie McIntosh


Rather abruptly, our Sociology professor asked for an example of a "synergistic collaboration"; silence pervaded the room; that was during my college freshman year.  Today, without hesitation, I’d holler "the Pantonic Live CD!".  This musical masterpiece is a product of the joint efforts of:   veteran arranger Clive Bradley; the Pantonic Steel Orchestra led by Keith Roberts; and Basement Recordings’ sound crew, directed by distinguished engineer, musician, and educator Trevor John.

My discussion of the work reveals a professional bias, in that I (an arranger), dwell largely upon the musical imagination of Clive Bradley, with particular focus on Andre Tanker’s Ben Lion (extended version, track #3).

Despite multiple levels of internal activity, Ben Lion maintains remarkable outward stability and coherence.   Bradley’s craftsmanship on this piece supports a conviction I have long held: the term "arranger" as applied to many in the pan world, is a misnomer.   These artists are bona fide composers, their inventiveness far transcending the bounds of arranging.  (See further discussion of Ben Lion under "Addendum" below.)

Shadow’s Stranger is imbued with a strong rhythmic drive, the warmth of Caribbean sunshine and the smell of ripe mango.  Kudos to the engine room here. The listener’s initial response may be involuntary toe tapping, but his mind is also addressed.

I found myself returning to the dramatic opening, where full orchestra seems to spell out "Stra…..n-ger".  Sixteen measures later it’s time for a change in texture; consequently, frontline pans descend over a bass pedal, while the middle section sustains a supporting harmony.  Eight measures ensue, and there’s now a need for more spirited activity (excitement!): A rapid, rising, chromatic run, played in unison, deliberately excludes basses.  Why?  So that the rapid, descending, diatonic run which follows, will include basses --- thereby providing contrast --- not only in melodic direction, but in weight as well.  Another key feature is the ‘breakdown’ in the middle of the piece, introducing dynamic and timbral change, as well as the element of surprise.

Recording a one-hundred plus piece steel orchestra outdoors, live, poses a challenge which only the most proficient sound engineers are prepared to meet.   The New York art community widely acknowledges Trevor John to be among those of his profession who reside on Mount Olympus.  The orchestral balance which he and the crew capture on the Pantonic Live CD (most notably Oba’s 'Picture on my Wall; and In my House), validates this reputation.

Bradley’s ‘big-band’ voicings and linear interaction required (especially so on cuts #5 and #6): correct mike placement and recording levels for each section of the orchestra; EQ which would enhance the natural sound of the instruments without distortion; and sensitive, experienced ears.  Trevor’s musical background was certainly an asset in this regard.   Main and secondary lines --- supporting harmonies --driving percussion --- all are heard in proper perspective.

Through insightful interpretation, Pantonic’s performers bring the music to life with spirit and elegance.  Their crescendos leading from chorus to verse (and elsewhere), in "In my House", evince superb dynamic control.  The precision and clarity with which complex chromatic sequences are executed; proficiency in changing tone color; alternating between back and front of the stick; ease in moving from lyrical legato to detached staccato (the melody of 'Picture on my Wall' for example)-- these skills bespeak countless hours of individual and group practice.   They represent a significant element in the formula, which renders Pantonic Live a rare treasure.

In today’s world of commercial radio, intelligible musical substance; creativity; and engineering excellence seem (in many cases), to have become disqualifying factors for airplay.  I applaud the producers of Pantonic Live in my prediction that radio exposure will be limited to such aware and discerning forums as Basement Recordings website and the Trevor Wilkins show.

AFTERTHOUGHT
I’ve tried to keep technical terms at a minimum, but it seemed impossible to dispense with them altogether, and yet convey to the reader some sense of the underlying formal features with which Clive Bradley invested his work; those same features that make us dance, shout, or listen attentively.

ADDENDUM
A further look at Ben Lion (for musicians and sane humans alike):

A rising, five-note motive taken from Tanker’s opening, introduces Ben Lion.  First appearing in B minor, it establishes the mood of the piece.  (In due course, this unit is imitated, transposed, offset contrapuntally, tossed among various sections of the orchestra, and subtly disguised --- never disappearing, however, since even when not sounding, its presence is felt).

The first motive is joined by a second --- more lyrical in character --- also from Tanker’s opening.

Our main theme (Andre Tanker’s chorus, verse, and refrain melody) is then firmly established in B minor by means of repetition.

A modulatory transition based on motives from the introduction is the next salient event.  The second (lyrical) introductory motive is transformed here into an expressive eight-bar melody in D minor, which contrasts so well with the main theme, that there is a temptation to hear it as a secondary theme, which would be developed later.  (Clive has different plans.)

The 4 pans and cellos, amid contrapuntal interplay with tenors, restate verse, chorus and refrain of the primary theme in D minor.  (At the risk of imposing Sonata Allegro form on Ben Lion, I’d venture to call the foregoing an Exposition).

A second transition, exploiting a verse figure, moves through the cycle of fifths to D major.  Here we come face to face with composer Bradley, who seems to be saying "Make no mistake about it, you’re in the ‘Development’ section at this point."

.

All stops are now out.  Tanker’s melody is fragmented, transformed, and placed in curious harmonic and modal settings.   Freshly created material drawing upon Blues, Salsa and Jazz idioms, reveals the artist's (Bradley) broad musical experience and vocabulary.  So absorbing is the unfolding, we find ourselves in G minor without being sure how we got there!

At this juncture one wonders how Bradley will return to the opening key of B minor after having ventured so far a field.  Well he doesn’t, and we come to realize that it was never his intention to do so.  The two introductory motives are restated (in G minor instead of B minor); a ‘G’ minor roll ends the piece; and we are left with images of Clive Bradley smiling, "Gotcha!"

Franklyn 'Maestro' McIntosh aka Frankie McIntosh has helped to elevate calypso to great prominence, arranging and composing music for artists like the Calypso King of the World Mighty Sparrow, Beckett, Scorcher, Chalkdust, Shadow, Explainer and a host of other outstanding musicians.

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Does Basement have a recording of Bradley's arrangement of "Tell Me Why" with Metro?
Bradley arranged in modules for the last 9 years if not longer of his time with steelbands. So the "traveling" between keys that Mcinctosh detects may just be a result of working on various modules at different times without necessarily forming a precise key map to begin with.

Also Bradley used one of two templates to arrange. a 10-minute and an 8 minute template much the same way that Dr. Samaroo does. He's so impeccably lyrical that it becomes difficult to detect this very common form of his easily.

Two of my favorite Bradley works are "Mind yuh Business" and "Looking for Horn". The former for his display of aggression and color; the latter for his unique manipulations of thematic material- It's like turning Twinkle twinkle into a symphonic poem.
I CAN''REMEMBER'''A TIME WHEN I,WAS YOUNGER RUDOLF WAS BLENDING,, SOME PANS 4 MY DAD AT ARE HOUSE''' AND HEARING HIM TALKING ABOUT, BRADLEY'' SAYING HE'S A GREAT COMPOSER'' AND ARRANGER''''''AND ALL WAYS WILL BE''''' WITH HIM WERE HARD TO BEAT'''''THEN I WAS TO YOUNG TO UNDERSTAND WHAT HE MET ''''''' NOW THAT IM OLDER'' I UNDERSTAND WHAT HE MET'''BY BEEING GREAT'''IM 32 NOW THEN I WAS 6-7-AND HE'S NO LONGER HERE R.I.P. BUT HE WAS RITE THEN. HE'S RITE NOW..BRADLEY WAS A GENIUS''' '''''PAN IN DANGER''4 REAL'''''BUT I STILL PLAY THEY ALBUM''' PAN IN HARMONY''' THATS ONE OF MY FAVORITE'''' SUM OF HIS BEST WORK'' AND THE BEST OF DESPERS'''' THOSE MY ALBUM I PLAY STILL TO THIS DAY''ITS ON TAPE'' BUT I PLAY IT''''BUT THATS AN ERROR GONE OF ALL GREAT MEN BEHIND THE MOVEMENT OF PAN'''MUCH RESPECT TO THE ONES STILL AROUND'''' PAN4EVER''
i dont think they will ever be another bradley .but i think he took his greatness for granted yo kno what a mean
I do hope that those  responsible and in authority, value, regard,cherish, promote without question,be not egoistic or self opiniated and take into consideration the gift that T&T has produced///tuners//arrangers///players///the love ,  and support  by all for their inheritance , pointifically speaking,, the steelpan., there are many professionals that i,m not aware of from T & T due to the lack of publicity in the early days, now owing to the internet and being in contact with Panonthenet.com,,full information is being had,,,luckily from youth i was gifted in learning to play the steelpan thereby with enthusiasm and inquisitiveness had developed myself as much as i can,now listening to this arrangement, one tends to wonder,, for me it was proportional,in syncronisation,deviation,just name and it was there,, like i said earlier,, music is feelings, i had read a comment by Frankie Mc intosh,my presumption is that  he has to be a 7th or 8th grader in music,i will not comment any further, nevertheless what he has stated was in order,i am subject to corrections,  in closing  once more i do hope that my earlier comment does not fall on deft ears,,,A School For Steelpan Tuners // Arrangers/// and enthusiastic persons, that are willing to learn the art of steelpan making ,,etc  with renumeration,,,for with honesty,, without this being done,, their would be migration of th best looking for their future, leaving a blank space,, that would take time again to be filled,,this i do state from a practical point of view and experience for i was there and had experienced same,,those who are having  ears to hear let them hear,,the truth shall set us all free,, i,m always open to redicule once more and or corrections  THE STEELPAN MUST LIVE ON  BY HOOK OR CROOK,God Bless.

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