Caribbean Latin jazz supergroup CaneFire is back with "Pandemonium", the highly anticipated follow-up to their 2005 debut, "Kaiso Blue". Featuring guest performances by calypso legend David Rudder (the "Bob Marley of soca") and Brazilian jazz icon Hermeto Pascoal, "Pandemonium" embodies all the sizzle and twice the sophistication of its predecessor, as Canadian pianist/composer Jeremy Ledbetter leads an all-star cast through more of the hard-hitting, explosive Caribbean jazz that CaneFire has become known for.
Joining Ledbetter on “Pandemonium” are Canadian-born steelpan virtuoso Mark Mosca and Cuban trumpeter Alexis Baro, as well as Braxton Hicks (saxophones), Chendy Leon (drums), Yoser Rodriguez (bass), and Alberto Suarez (percussion). The album also features guest performances by Brazilian jazz legend Hermeto Pascoal and Trinidadian calypso superstar David Rudder.
CaneFire’s signature sound revolves around its unconventional use of the steelpan – the Trinidadian percussion instrument that transforms oil barrels into sound vessels, and as such the only petroleum byproduct in the world that is actually good for you. Eight of the album’s eleven tracks are original compositions by Ledbetter, who has fashioned a repertoire that combines the best of several worlds: the white-hot energy of Cuban rhythm, the blinding musicianship of modern jazz, and the unbridled joy of the music of the Caribbean.
The album opens with “The Madman’s Jig,” an outrageously energetic Latin jazz piece written in 27/4 time. But in terms of pure unbridled energy, there is hardly anything out there to rival “Baptism by Fire,” CaneFire’s take on a hybrid Trinidadian church music called “gospelypso”. Other notable tracks are “Two Cousins”, based on the striking juxtaposition of Afro-Venezuelan rhythms and reggae; “Coconuts and Doubles”, a tribute to Trinidad contributed by trumpeter Alexis Baro; “Donna Lee Goes South”, a rollicking arrangement of Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee” that closes out the album with a Brazilian samba street parade; and “The Fountain of Youth,” an epic journey through the Amazon rainforest featuring Venezuelan guest vocalist Eliana Cuevas as well as Hermeto Pascoal. There are also two tracks inspired by the birth last spring of Ledbetter and Cuevas’ daughter, Leila. The first is “Welcome Home,” a gentle ballad which combines an Afro-Brazilian rhythm with a Trinidad steelband. The second is the final bonus track, “If I Could Sing,” which Ledbetter crafted around the babbling sounds of the then five-month-old Leila. A final song of note on the recording is the distinctly CaneFire cover of “Trini to the Bone,” Trinidad’s unofficial national anthem. David Rudder, the soca superstar behind the original also sings on the CaneFire version.