Bright Eyes (Paquito)
The steel pan isn’t an unknown quantity in jazz. Notable players such as Andy Narell and Othello Molineaux have either specialized in the instrument or prominently included it in their musical toolkit. Still, jazz albums on which the steel pan is the focus remain a relative rarity. On Bright Eyes, Victor Provost offers a compelling argument for this lively member of the percussion family to take center stage more often. Far from treating the steel pan as a sonic novelty only good for a dash of island flavor, he demonstrates what it can add to a variety of formats.
Drummer Billy Williams Jr., along with brothers Alex Brown, on piano, and Zach Brown, on bass, form the core of Provost’s fine band on the recording, but they get plenty of help. On “Eastern Standard Time,” the aggressively paced opening track, the quartet is joined by saxophonist Tedd Baker and guitarist John Lee, whose energetic features seemingly serve to both inspire and challenge Provost during his own adventurously melodic segments.
“Ella Nunca Tiene Una Ventana,” which follows, is an even stronger Provost showcase; he transitions from shadowing pianist Brown to slicing through the chords with a densely constructed solo that gathers momentum in a subtle but effective way. And on “Fitt Street,” his tonal flurries are fast, furious and captivating.
Provost doesn’t ignore the steel pan’s roots. “Pan in Harmony” is a lovely rendition of a familiar calypso tune, while “Homenaje” gets Caribbean with a big assist from guest saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera. But the best moments on Bright Eyes are stylistic blends like the concluding “La Casa de Fiesta,” a speedy slab of hard bop that finds saxophonist Ron Blake, trumpeter Etienne Charles and Provost trying to one-up each other in the great jazz tradition — with which the steel pan fits very well, indeed.