Home Music Iwan VanHetten: Parabbean Tales

Iwan VanHetten: Parabbean Tales

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Iwan VanHetten: Parabbean Tales
Photograph courtesy of Iwan Vanhetten Publicity

The personnel playing on this recording may lead some to believe is a Yellowjackets album, but that would be a fallacy. It’s just that the cascading pianism of Russell Ferrante, the pointillist bass lines of Jimmy Haslip [when he plays in the rhythm section] and the almighty attack of Will Kennedy’s drums together with the elegantly sculpted lines of Bob Mintzer’s tenor saxophone are eminently suited to Parabbean Tales this burnished magic that Iwan VanHetten creates from the bell of his trumpet. But hold on… let’s also not forget that the angular ingenuity of Melvin Lee Davis and his bass lines carries the heft of this recording.

Moreover, there’s also those ever-so memorable moments when Lenny Castro’s percussion colours bring an undulant tumbling rhythmic groove to the music. And then there’s Andy Narell whose highly imaginative and reggae-inflected performance imparts an ideal glow to the sonorities… all while Mr VanHetten evokes – with a softly-burning blue flame – the heart and soul of Afro-Caribbean music. [“Parabbean Tales”, “Cachete” and “Djoel & Knippa” are just three such examples.] The trumpeter’s approach to his horn is sensitive and understated and he is also a master of the effervescent danzón form – something he and Mr Ferrante explore in the breathtaking song, “Spally” in a duet made in heaven, where the trumpeter is particularly lyrical.

Mr VanHetten’s subtleties of touch and articulation have a dark glow about them throughout the album but the ebullience of “Spally” is spun from altogether brighter, more vivid colours. The trumpeter seems to possess the key to unlocking the winsomeness of Afro-Caribbean music. But unlike most trumpeters who play in that style he eschews the loud and raucous blowing of the horn. His voice is more sensual and whispered, like hot breath that can send the listener’s pulse racing.

Throughout the repertoire on this disc we are moved by the inherent expressivity of the trumpet largely due to Mr VanHetten’s ability to enunciate a melodic line and then hold it aloft effortlessly as he impels it with a series of delightful harmonic inventions allowing the song to take flight. It is this singular characteristic of this music – all written by the trumpeter – that makes it irresistible. It will also make you forget who else is on the recording as you discover a glorious voice making glorious music one masterful variation following another with languid brilliance. That’s what makes this recording truly memorable.

Track list – 1: Parabbean Tales; 2: Freedom; 3: Cachete; 4: Not Without Yu; 5: 5th Avenue; 6: Oasis; 7: Brother Rupert; 8: Djoel & Knippa; 9: LA Jam; 10: Spally

Personnel – Iwan VanHetten: trumpet; Russell Ferrante: piano and keyboards; Melvin Lee Davis: bass; Jimmy Haslip: bass [5, 7]; Will Kennedy: drums; Lenny Castro: percussion; Andy Narell: steel pans [7, 8]; Bob Mintzer: tenor saxophone [6]

Released – 2022
Label – Blue Canoe Records
Runtime – 46:09

Raul da Gama is a poet and essayist. He has published three collections of poetry, He studied at Trinity College of Music, London specialising in theory and piano, and he has a Masters in The Classics. He is an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep technical and historical understanding of music and literature.

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