Callaloo is a Caribbean soup loved throughout the islands and is the national dish of Trinidad and Tobago, the birthplace of the steel pan. With his latest recording, Callaloo, pan master Jeff Narell brings forward 12 slammin’ dance tracks - jazzy around the edges with a cross Caribbean mix of soca, salsa, reggae and samba grooves.
This new release features an entourage of top vocalists from the Caribbean region, Crazy (Trinidad), Rahsul (St Thomas), Carlos Soto (Nicaragua), Claudia Villela (Brazil), Lemo (Trinidad), and Jerry Kennedy (Florida), highlighted by Jeff’s spicy steel pan stylings.
The instrumentalists are equally impressive, featuring Karl Perrazo (Santana percussionist), Gary Brown (Airto bassist) and guitarists Ray Obiedo, Carlos Oliveira, and Avi Bortnick, all artists with solo CD’s.
Callaloo includes Jeff’s original composition Ellie Man, a top tune played by steel orchestras island wide for Trinidad Carnival 2003. A tribute to his mentor, Ellie Mannette, it was sung and recorded in collaboration with Trinidad calypso star Crazy and performed by Ellie’s original steel orchestra, Invaders, at Panorama. Performed by steel orchestras in five countries, Ellie Man captured the crown in Toronto’s Caribana festival.
Jeff Narell and his brother Andy Narell have been leading steel pan proponents and innovators, instrumental in its spread throughout North America. Steel pan was little known outside Trinidad, the island-nation of its invention, in the early 60’s when Rupert Sterling, an exchange student from the Caribbean island of Antigua, arrived in NYC to study engineering. Rupert soon found himself teaching pan to street gangs on the notorious Lower East Side of Manhattan, under the direction of social worker Murray Narell. The music was raw and dynamic and soon Murray’s adolescent sons, Jeff and Andy, were playing along.
The Narell brothers absorbed steel band arrangements of 60’s calypsos and then began to perform with some neighborhood friends as The Steel Bandits, creating a stir as a novelty act. Over the next seven years, they appeared on national TV shows, major concert venues, recorded an LP, and were invited as guest artists to Port of Spain Trinidad’s National Music Festival. In 1967, Murray arranged for Ellie Mannette, the father of the modern steel pan, to come to NY to spread the artform in America.
In the early 70s Jeff relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, being the first, along with brother Andy, to bring steel pan to West Coast audiences. He has been a presence on the world music scene ever since, leading a succession of Caribbean flavored bands working the West Coast and Hawaii, and establishing himself as a player and bandleader, “in the forefront of the cross breed movement blending jazz, calypso, latin, pop and reggae” (Robert Weider, San Francisco Chronicle). Jeff’s ensembles have performed at thousands of venues: clubs, music festivals, corporate events, multi-cultural programs, celebrity weddings and Lake Tahoe casinos. Along the way, he has released three CDs of original compositions.
Narell has recorded and performed with a diverse array of artists including George Benson, the Grateful Dead, Bobby McFerrin, and Olatunji and on four big box office films, including 48 Hours and Commando. He has composed two theatrical scores, one of which, the California Shakespeare Company’s production of The Tempest, won the Hollywood Dramalogue award for “Best Original Theatrical Score”.
Jeff has acted as musical director for Trinidad Calypsonians Crazy and Chalkdust in San Francisco Bay Area shows, performed with Boogsie Sharpe, Robbie Greenidge, Ray Holman and Shadow in Trinidad and the states. In 1996 Jeff was a guest artist on the Grammy nominated CD in the Latin Jazz Category, Rhythm at the Crossroads, featuring Cuban master percussionists, Patato, Changuito, and Orestes Vilato.
Performing live, composing, arranging and producing his original CDs, Jeff continues to forge a unique musical vision with pan.