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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.

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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.

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.

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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Excellent analysis. Mr. Bradley truly was a genius. This arrangement of Bradley displays the more deep thinking person.

Excellent article...this is the kind of breakdown I'd like to see from the judges of Panorama. However, that maybe asking a bit much since Frankie is a unique musician, composer and arranger.
In this arrangement (Ben Lion) Bradley maneuvers from B minor (opening), to D minor, (which is up the minor third - fairly standard maneuvering) and then to D major (which is raising the minor third....) and then to G minor (D is the dominant of G, so a D7 chord will lead you to G minor without much hassle) - but then to end the piece in G minor (when you can easily "go home" to B minor) strikes me as rather peculiar.

I would disagree that this was Sir Bradley's initial plan - "Begin in B minor end in G minor" My personal view point is that there was not enough time for him to complete the piece....and the ending leaves me with a sense of "unfinished"
Dear Sir,

I humbly, but strongly, disagree with you, and concur with Frankie McIntosh's analysis. Master Bradley takes us on a complete and flavorful musical journey characterized by motifs and movements from the Caribbean, through the Middle East, and back. Particularly his final transitions into his last movement - the grand finale (which always re-emphasizes the introductory theme) - was no doubt finalized, with touchdown back home. There was absolutely no sense of "pressure to finish," "running out of time" or haste.

Note to your file: Bradley enjoyed his work, to the point of sheer mischief. Pressure, and uncertainty were never in his playbook. Especially for 2002, he particularly had fun, and time, not only arranging a song that the kids in the band found real cool, but also creating a 9 minute 23 second work of art that most other arrangers would cringe in fear to even consider as a panorama piece.
Kurleigh; beyond the difference in beginning and ending keys - was there something thematic that left you to believe that Mr. Bradley was done with this tune?
you know the great thing about bradley was his passion for the unexpected.

what also makes him the great one is that in the 60's 70's 80's 90's 00's he was always moving forward never looking back. every era was filled with amazing new ways to elevate pan forward. no other arranger in pan history could say that.
we can theorize why he did this and that, but at the end of the day he probably never knew how he got what he got, how are we supposed to.
our good friend gospel said to me about Brados "What a great character who's greatest asset was not his music, but his personality" i can only second that motion.
can we not just enjoy his greatness without finding flaws and the reason why this and that happens.
the theorists have ruined classical music, are now ruining jazz ... please, please don't ruin bradley..
Pan Cafe, having had the fortune to play for, work with and be around Bradley for years up close and personal on several different levels - I believe that Bradley can stand up to any type scrutiny (personal and musical). Bradley's musical greatness is a done deal. Fortunately, he understood the importance of recording. We have some great ones.

Theorist should study Bradley. I'm sure he is quite pleased after all among many other things, Bradley was an intellectual and could get as technical as anybody if that was you preference. Ultimately and more importantly, Bradley was a people person. He could connect with a three year old as easily as he could with an adult.

Bradley produced music for the people in manner that told their stories and with things they could relate to. Like Bob Marley his music will live on forever.

Kurleigh you provide an interesting take on Ben Lion. I don't agree with you, but it is an interesting perspective. We did the recording of Ben Lion. What you are hearing is pretty much what Brads wanted that year.
Some of the most beautiful harmonies I have ever heard are in this version of "Ben Lion". This Bradley masterpiece would sound great in any type orchestra. Bradley's transitions are the best of any arrangers ever. How about Bradley simulating and echo with the 4 pans? Wicked!

Basement, if I hadn't seen you guys record some of these performances live I would not believe what I was hearing. Your recordings capture pan as no other. Much respect.

There is no disputing the quality and execution of this piece (Ben Lion). It is masterful. "Big ups" to Basement Recordings for being able to capture the melodies so clearly especially in the lower range pans. However, music affects every individual in a way that is unique to that person. This particular Bradley arrangement affected me in a way that none of the others have...and so I shared it with the forum.
Kurleigh please continue to share your thoughts. They are very appreciated. Everybody has their favorite Bradley piece. For me it is Ben Lion. There is something very special about this arrangement and performance.

Thanks for your kind words Kurleigh. The recording of Ben Lion is one that is special to us. It is the final performance by Pantonic before they took the stage. It was done with only one take. The difficult conditions that night gave us only one shot at capturing the performance. But as usual Brads was in good spirits and the band was raring to go. He was quite pleased with the results of the recording, as has always been the case with Basement Recordings productions of his works performed by Pantonic.


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