Elan Trotman | Tropicality
Woodward Avenue Records
by Brent Faulkner
Barbadian born and bred saxophonist Elan Trotman returns with sixth
album, 2013’s Tropicality via Woodward Avenue Records. Trotman’s
saxophone playing, influenced by late, pre-eminent contemporary jazz saxist
Grover Washington, Jr., also contains Caribbean/tropical elements and
fresh improvisatory ideas, eliminating predictability. His esteemed
musicianship has allowed him to collaborate with heavyweights including
Roberta Flack, Will Downing, and Rick Braun amongst them. Tropicality
guest cast includes Jeff Lorber, Paul Brown, and Nick Colionne. In
addition to his own compositions, Trotman covers classics from Stevie
Wonder, Bob Marley, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. He also co-writes with
others including bassist Nicholas Brancker and keyboardist/organist Mark
Copeland. Trotman and Mark C. Nordman serve as executive producers.
Tropicality features several bright spots. “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”
nicely updates Stevie Wonder’s tropical classic with Trotman capably
covering the vocal melody on tenor sax. Trotman prominently utilizes
dubbing (multiple tracks of saxophone), likened to backing vocals; the
effect further accentuates. On “Bridge to Beantown”, Trotman breaks out
his flute (in addition to sax), trading compelling solos with guest
pianist Jeff Lorber on this grooving, tropical standout. On “Sunset in
Paradise”, Trotman’s sax and guest Nicholas Brancker’s bass make a
compelling melodic pairing against an easy-going groove. Lin Rountree
(trumpet) and Terry Lyne Carrington (drums) add a lift to “Funkalypso”,
which yields quite a memorable tune with some angular quirks. Mid-tempo
title cut “Tropicality” finds guitarist Nick Colionne complementing
Trotman’s smooth soprano sax.
The effort also features other solid cuts, including “Tradewinds” in
which saxophone and guitar trade fours and “Danca Ku mi (Dance With
Me)”, which capitalizes on a sensual, Latin vibe. Bob Marley cover
“Wait in Vein” isn’t shabby either, opening with bass and finger snap.
Here, Trotman oscillates between saxophone and flute – sometimes
playing them simultaneously (the beauty of the studio). There are no
flops, but some numbers fail to allure as much as the elites. “Always
With You” seems to lack ‘unpredictability’ regardless of capable tenor
playing while “A Time And Place” (featuring Paul Brown) possesses a
sound urban-jazz feel but fails to percolate like the best of the best.
“Island Groove” featuring Chantel Hampton, has the pieces, but the
final product falls slightly short of being first tier.
Ultimately, Tropicality proves to be a favorable contemporary jazz album. The
effort gets it ‘right’ more often than not, be it the Trotman’s own
inspired playing or the support of a an excellently assembled guest
cast. The effort may never quite attain ‘valedictory’ status, but it
also never comes close to falling flat or disappointing. All-in-all,
it’s another worthwhile addition to the jazz collection.
The Urban Music Scene