Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Caribbean cool

 Plan on hitting the beach Thursday after making your runs. At least it will feel like the beach in the Coppertop that night, as Island Breeze will be playing the calypso and Gosling's rum will be serving the dark 'n' stormies.

Island Breeze features Kelley B. from long-running reggae faves Hot Like Fire on keyboards, trumpet and vocals, Charleston Sarjean on steel pan, and Ron Butler on guitar.

Kelley B. formed this project while she was working as a chef at the Meridian hotel.

"They were doing a clam bake and I told them they should be using a steel pan band instead of a jazz group for the clam bakes," she says. Kelley B. had been playing reggae and Caribbean music in the area long enough to pull together such a project.

While attending Berklee College of Music, Kelley B. had dreams of being the first woman trumpet player in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. But a trip to Barbados when she was 18 changed everything. She learned the island's music and played in island bands.

Back home in Boston, Kelley B. formed Hot Like Fire which remains one of the region's leading reggae acts.

The attention to detail and authenticity Kelley B. puts into Hot Like Fire is also found in Island Breeze. Sarjean created the Pan United steel orchestra in 2001 and has been playing the resonant percussion instrument since he was 12 years old. Today, Sarjean also teaches steel pan to public school students in Boston.

Island Breeze recently added Butler, a Jamaican guitarist who has performed with Israel Vibration and toured with Steel Pulse. Butler's addition is sure to have Island Breeze pushing beyond the boundaries of traditional calypso. Though, Kelley B. was already having some fun mixing hot reggae into the traditional calypso mix (as well as some natural popular number such as "Mambo No. 5").

"New England has a diverse population of people of African, Haitian, and Caribbean descent," Kelley B. says. "There is a lot of love for this music, and always a niche for a band like this."

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