Elan Trotman and Special Guest, Gerald Veasley

Young Lion Brings Big Party To Hartford

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Marjorie Savoie

Gerald Veasley and Elan Trotman at The Greater Hartford Jazz Festival; Photo by Marjorie Savoie

Upon his arrival to stage, Elan Trotman was described by WQTQ’s Stewart Stone as, “a young lion”. More fitting words could not have been chosen. The term, “young lion” was coined in the 1980’s as a tip of the hat to a serious, sharply dressed, college educated jazz musician who is preparing himself to become king of the jungle. Cats like Wynton Marsalis have proudly borne this title, and Barbados native Elan Trotman, who now resides in Boston, seems to be prowling through jazz circles in very much the same way.

Trotman started his show with a burst of energy, opening with his rendition of, “The Party Rock Anthem”, which immediately brought the audience to their feet. Right from the start, his connection with his fans was evident, and he kept them engaged throughout the show with his effective use of humor, dynamics, and intuitive interaction.

One of the qualities that makes Trotman’s performances so enjoyable is that he places the focus not on displaying his impressive technical ability, but more importantly, on communication with his listeners. He allows his instrument to speak, and creates space for audience response, which generates great excitement and energy during his performances.

Trotman also creates additional layers of interest through his interactions with members of his band. He has assembled an outstanding team of highly skilled instrumentalists, including drummer Anthony Steele, bassist Alex Bailey, keyboardist Mark Copeland, and guitarist Tyrone Chase (who has also toured with Brian McKnight). Trotman graciously provided them ample opportunity to shine, and he was generous in his introduction of each supporting cast member, clearly stating their names before and after solos.

It should be noted that in November of 2010, just four months after another stellar performance at the Greater Hartford Jazz Festival, The Elan Trotman Band suffered a heartbreaking loss when their bassist, Webster Roach died, following a stroke and blood clot complications. Bassist Alex Bailey has had some very big shoes to fill, and has done an outstanding job.

Trotman and his band performed, “Lil’ Too Late”, from his fourth CD, “This Time Around”, released in 2009. This tune featured Mark Copeland on keys, with a very enjoyable blend of chordal and melodic improvisation.

Next was Trotman’s exotic and well written tune, “Last Dance”, from his most recent CD entitled, “Love and Sax”. The internal rhythmic hook within this song generates intensity and showcases the tightness of the band as a whole. Trotman’s tone and phrasing were magnificent, and his effective use of circular breathing astounded his audience, as he not only held notes endlessly, but did so with fullness and resonance. Trotman also makes full use of dynamics, not only in his own playing, but in his band arrangements, which keeps audiences engaged at all times.

Having fully establishing himself as an entity in his own right, Trotman then introduced the arrival of his greatly anticipated guest artist, Gerald Veasley. His introduction was made all the more meaningful, as he shared the significance of having been inspired during his childhood when the late Grover Washington made a concert appearance in his native Barbados. Gerald Veasley had been the bassist for that concert, and has since become a giant in the Jazz world. Trotman expressed a sense of profound honor for the privilege of sharing the stage with such a legend.

There was dynamic interaction and great energy between Veasley and Trotman which, from an audience perspective, felt as if we were listening in on an intriguing conversation between two articulate jazz masters. Veasley used a variety of techniques and effects, from smooth to nasty, “speaking” through his bass to the audience. The simmering combination of bass and alto sax was soon ignited into an explosion of audience participation.

Veasley and Trotman teamed up on Veasley’s arrangement of, “Do I Do,” by Stevie Wonder, featuring a tightly synchronized melody between bass and tenor. Veasley then transitioned into a medley of famous bass riffs from such songs as “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang, “Under Pressure” by Queen, “Skin Tight” by The Ohio Players, and “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by Taste of Honey. To describe it simply; it was, “fun”! The audience went nuts. People were on their feet, dancing and cheering, and having a great time!

Next they brought it down, transitioning into a romantic mood with Trotman’s, “Heaven In Your Eyes,” from the “Love and Sax”CD. There was an exquisite exchange of melody between Trotman’s tenor sax and Veasley’s bass, and Mark Copeland added the perfect touch with an expressive piano solo. The original recording of this tune reached #11 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Radio charts, and featured a guest appearance by Brian Simpson.

Trotman then brought the tempo back up, performing his original, “100 Degrees”, featuring the band in a tight energetic groove, with short intermittent solos by each band member, preceded by short breaks of silence. This tune makes several modulations, culminating in an all band freeze, where every player remains silent and motionless amid the crowd’s deafening cheers, until drummer Anthony Steele resumes the groove. Steele kept them frozen until the audience had worked itself into a frenzy, and then resumed the groove to an overwhelming response of applause. Trotman then moved throughout the stage, taking time for significant interaction between himself and each player. It was reminiscent of the kind of respectful acknowledgement that superstar Michael Jackson bestowed on his supporting cast at the end of his shows, and Trotman is to be commended for the consideration he shows his colleagues on stage. It is rare to see such respect, humility, and integrity in the music world, and these treasured core values are the very essence of greatness.

Just when we thought it was as good as it gets, Trotman came right out into the audience, using circular breathing to sustain a beautifully vibrant note for several minutes. His audience was astounded.

Veasley then returned to the stage, to perform a beautiful tune that he wrote for his wife, entitled, “Forever”, while also taking the opportunity to introduce his lovely daughter Taylor, dedicating the performance of the song to her. This tune was very soulful, in ¾ time, showcasing the great frequency range of Veasley’s bass. He played as if he was preaching a message.

Next Trotman and Veasley teamed up on, “Just The Two of Us”, encouraging the audience to lead on vocals, which was great fun! Their closing encore, “Thank you” by Sly and The Family Stone, was a powerful ending to a phenomenal performance. Many thanks to the Elan Trotman Band and Gerald Veasley, who brought the party to Hartford, and put on a show that will not be soon forgotten.

Sources:

http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/jam-session/2012/may/24/willow-weep-for-me-a-young-lion-in-san-diego/

http://dothemath.typepad.com/dtm/1-young-lion-jazz-of-the-1980s.html

http://www.minnpost.com/arts-arena/2010/05/two-jazz-lions-lead-week%E2%80%99s-picks

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Marjorie Savoie