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Andy Narell: Man of Steel

Andy Narell

Andy Narell is a master of collaboration who has turned virtuosity on the steel drums into an international musical passport. But when it came to creating his most ambitious recording yet, Narell decided to go it alone. Tatoom, his new album on Heads Up, features his compositions for steel orchestra, and while Mike Stern and David Sanchez appear as special guests, Narell plays almost all the pan parts himself, creating a lush, shimmering, orchestral sound by meticulously overdubbing on five steel-pan registers, from tenor to bass.

A big steel band in Trinidad and Tobago, where the steel pan is the national instrument, often features eight registers, much as the string section in a symphony orchestra is made up of violins, violas and cellos. But in creating the extended pieces on Tatoom, Narell couldn’t merely layer tracks with the same instrument. Instead, Narell recorded on multiple instruments in each register, playing drums crafted by Dr. Ellie Mannette, a longtime family friend and mentor to Narell who helped invent the steel drum in the 1940s, transforming gleaming pans made from 55-gallon oil barrels into highly refined musical vehicles.

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