By John Stevenson
The last few years have been particularly kind to veteran Trini-Bajan jazz pianist, Edwin Ebenezer Gilkes, popularly known as “Ebe”.
In 2010, after playing professionally for more than half a century he released his much-welcomed very first CD. Earlier this year, he was formally presented with one of Barbados’s highest honours, The Barbados Service Star, for his “significant contribution to the development of the island’s entertainment industry, especially the promotion of jazz”.
Ebe’s platter, simply titled, “Ebe Gilkes Trio”, also features Andre Woodvine as a guest artist.
On eleven exquisitely rendered selections, recorded at the Frank Collymore Hall, Bridgetown, in July 2009, listeners are treated to nothing short of a master-class in jazz piano. Ebe draws his material from old warhorses of the standards repertoire such as Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke’s Here’s That Rainy Day performed solo, to the Duke’s What Am I Here For, which finds him in the company of artful skinsman Vere Gibson, and valiant acoustic bassist Clarence Green.
When you listen to Ebe, you will undoubtedly hear the jazz tradition of the last 70 years or so coming through loud and clear. Mr Gilkes has imbibed the stylistic subtleties of the Duke and the Count; his debt to Oscar Peterson is partly defrayed on his rendition of The Gentle Waltz, mirroring the late Canadian maestro’s deft minor key changes, and pretty upper register right hand runs.
But Ebe’s originals aren’t to be sniffed at either. Just try Sandpiper Blues for size, a reference to the Sandpiper Inn, a lovely Barbados West Coast hotel where Ebe has gigged for many years. Let’s hope Ebe won’t take too long to present his fans with the next recording.
Andre Woodvine is in the top rank of saxophone players on the island of Barbados. A graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, he combines eloquent and expressive reed (alto, tenor and soprano principally) and flute playing with great knowledge of the myriad rhythms of the Caribbean. More than this, Andre also possesses a wicked, sometimes self-deprecating sense of humour that finds its way in his improvisation and the song titles on his most recent CD, Fix It On Monday.
On The Boys of Summer, ‘Dre drives the melody off of a cheesy 1980s-vintage soft rock shuffle set up by drummer Dave Burnett, which ever so swiftly morphs into a Montuno-like pattern. The apparent contrast between time signatures establishes a basis for fantastic improvisation. The title track, a working mantra for procrastinators the world over, utilises a classic dub ‘riddim’. And it sees Andre’s sometimes growling, sometimes purring tenor on the chase for Monk’s last reggae riff – if Stefan Walcott’s attractively dissonant piano solo is anything to go by. The reggae vibe continues with a seductive soprano sax feature on The Out Crowd, which should actually be re-titled The Chilled Out Crowd; Richard Evans’ disarming bass lines chill everyone out. ‘Trane Wreck’ the most straightahead jazz tune of the set, finds the beat falling crisply between the ‘two’ and the ‘four’, and Woodvine blowing in tribute to Mr JC.
Elegantly delivered on flute over a Kadans snare drum pattern, Overcast Conditions takes the listener on an island hop from Fort de France to Point-a-Pitre, and back.
Fix It On Monday more than anything helps in reaffirming the fact that Barbadian jazz is in very safe hands.