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Elan’s sax appeal

Elan Trotman, back home in Barbados for the recent Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari, talks about his love of sax. (Picture by Sandy Pitt.) Trotman and bassist Nicholas Brancker jammin’ on stage at Ilaro Court on Sunday. (GP)

By Natanga Smith | Fri, January 25, 2013 - 12:00 AM

Saxophonist Elan Trotman debuted a Cannonball tenor sax on stage at the Sunshine For Stars show at Ilaro Court on Sunday.

He has had it for only two years.

The sax he had before, a Selmer, saw him through his studies on a full scholarship at Berklee College of Music, gaining a Bachelor’s degree in music education and the early part of his career, but he gave it away.

“I had it for about 15 years and a student here, Romario Greaves, needed it, so I gave it to him.”

The 34-year-old Barbadian, living in his adopted Boston for the past 16 years, was in the island to perform at the Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari and used the opportunity to debut his fifth album Tropicality.

The album chronicles Trotman’s journey from Barbados to Boston and celebrates the multihued beauty of the tropical paradise.  

The inherent difficulty for instrumentalists is to “speak” without words, hence Elan’s challenge to speak volumes through melodic riffs, rhythms and grooves that tell his personal story and share his ardour for his homeland.  

He wrote or co-wrote seven of the collection’s nine originals and selected a few fitting covers, including a rollicking rendition of Stevie Wonder’s reggae-inflected Master Blaster (Jammin’) that was done with bass guitarist Nicholas Brancker.

Those at the jazz show would have gotten to see and hear the duo perform it.

Trotman and star guitarist Peter White produced the 12-track set that was recorded in Barbados, Boston and Los Angeles and includes performances by a stellar array of musicians.

Playing the tenor sax since the age of 12, Elan said his interest in music peaked while he was at Queen’s College.

“My teachers there knew I didn’t have any passion for sciences, or academic work. I was into visual arts.”

Trotman said it wasn’t until he saw the piano in the school auditorium that he “found himself”. From then on, he played it whenever he had any free time.

Citing Barbadian sax man Arturo Tappin as his mentor, Trotman, who also plays the soprano sax, said he listens to a lot of sax players and likes to pay homage to Grover Washington Jr, John Coltrane, Len Boogsie Sharpe and other jazz pioneers when he performs.

Elan comes from a musically inclined family, with his dad being a freelance guitarist and mum a singer in a choir.

“My two sisters, though, have no interest in music,” he said, laughing, and added that when he visits his family they do not talk about music because it is the only time he can escape from it.

On Tropicality, he said: “This album is very special to me as I’ve always wanted to showcase my Caribbean heritage through my music. We islanders are happy people by nature and that quality has always been evident by the way our music grooves.  

“As a child, I spent countless hours at the beach swimming and exploring the beautiful landscapes of the western and southern coasts of Barbados. On a recent visit back home, I began to compose these songs as I walked on those same beaches,” said the musician who grew up in Wildey, St Michael, “run about” in Holders Hill, St James, and now resides in Silver Sands, Christ Church when he comes home.

Tradewinds, the second song on the album, “was composed on the beach and it decided the direction of the album. Tropicality is the story of that journey from Bridgetown to Beantown, and I’m very fortunate to have some close friends from across the globe join me on this project.  

“My original compositions feature rhythms and grooves not just from Barbados, but from other Caribbean islands, Cape Verde, and Latin America,” said Trotman, who will launch the album with concerts in three cities – Boston, Los Angeles and Arizona.

Tropicality follows the success of 2011’s Love And Sax, a Billboard Top 20 contemporary jazz album that spawned the single Heaven In Your Eyes, a duet with keyboardist Brian Simpson, which reached No.11 on Billboard’s jazz songs chart.  

Trotman has lent his soulful horn flair to recordings and shared the concert stage with an extraordinary assortment of marquee musicians including Roberta Flack, and fellow saxophonists Dave Koz, Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright, and Najee. He is a three-time winner of the New England Urban Music Award as Best Jazz Male.

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