A serious musical innovator and a passionate big brother.
This is how steel pan arranger Carlton “Zanda” Alexander remembers his late brother, piano virtuoso Clive “Zanda” Alexander.
“My brother was a serious innovator in the field of music. He came back (to Trinidad and Tobago after studying abroad) and he had the awareness to take calypso and re-harmonize it, exhibiting new colors, ”a Carlton said on a moving WhatsApp call. with the Express yesterday.
Clive Zanda, widely regarded as the creator of kaisojazz, was passionate about improvisation and extended the limits of improvised creation beyond his music in his work as an architect, Carlton revealed.
“He said that architecture is frozen music. He created what he called tropical architecture because Clive had to innovate that too, ”Carlton said with a laugh.
Clive “Zanda” Alexander sadly passed away on January 6 at the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH). The largely self-taught pianist, 82, had been admitted to St James Medical Complex five days before his death, complaining of hypoglycemia. Diagnosed with diabetes, he was then transferred to PoSGH after doctors at St James’ facility determined he was suffering from kidney failure.
Carlton said he was very close to his brother all his life. He wrote to her frequently while studying in the UK. And he says his brother has always put him in the same room with leaders in the architecture and music industry, directly helping him to thrive in both fields.
“He was everything to me. We spent a lot of time together, working on architectural drawings and playing music. He took me to his very first show at UWI (The University of the West Indies, St Augustine). He introduced me (US based Trinidadian jazz bassist) Dave “Happy” Williams. When he brought in (iconic American jazz drummer) Elvin Jones to Trinidad, he stayed with Clive in Blue Basin (Diego Martin), and I had access to him. When (American jazz drummer) Max Roach came, I got to meet him too. So I was exposed to these famous musicians thanks to Clive, ”recalls Carlton.
A huge talent
The first of nine children, Clive “Zanda” Alexander was born in southern Trinidad in the then sleepy village of Siparia in 1939. His father, Vincentian Richard Alexander, was a shoemaker by profession who played the guitar and ran the religious music program from the community. . Her mother, Louisa, a housewife, sang gospel music.
As a child, Clive Zanda first played music on self-made cardboard bongos. At 15, he began classical piano lessons where his immense talent as an improvisational musician was immediately felt. So much so that his instructor often left him to himself.
Alexander took a correspondence course in architecture while working in his father’s shoe repair shop. A district engineer noticed his drawings during a visit to the workshop and got him an apprenticeship as a draftsman. In 1959 Alexander emigrated to the United Kingdom to study architecture.
“When he left for England in the late 1950s, I think I was 14; of the four boys, I was the one who wrote to him regularly in England. I started to take an interest in architecture and he had a good friend who was returning to Trinidad, the late architect Claude Benjamin, to open his practice in San Fernando. Clive wrote to me and told me to go see it and it was the first job I ever had in the late 60s, ”Carlton said.
It was around this time that Clive Zanda began to thrive and make a name for himself on the London jazz scene. After training with composer Michael Grant, he formed his own combo and worked on the fusion of calypso and jazz.
Returning to T&T amid the provocative Black Power movement in 1969, Clive Zanda worked with the late Scofield Pilgrim, professor of music at Queen’s Royal College, to launch the Gayap Workshop where musicians could build community and learn from each other. .
It was around this time that Alexander called his musical experimentation calypso, folk and jazz kaisojazz. And in 1976, he released his first album, Clive Zanda is Here! With Dat Kinda Ting. He completed three other LPs during his life, including Pan Visions Revisited (2000), Pan Jazz Conversations (2003) and Piano Vibrations (2016).
“When he returned and opened his practice, I was working with the Department of Public Works on Edward Street (Port of Spain) as a senior drafting technician. Much more began to unfold. He opened AB Architects on Dundonald Street. So I would work with the ministry from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then go to work with Clive.
“After work, we played music. People like Felix Roach and Ralph Davies were at those sessions and younger musicians you know today like Michael Boothman and David Boothman. Ray Holman used to come by too and hold classes, ”Carlton said.
A legacy we cannot ignore
Jazz music promoter Nigel Campbell, director of Production One Ltd, recalls turning from a longtime fan to a trusted friend after meeting Clive Zanda at their Jazz Artists on the Greens concert in 2007.
“We officially met at Jazz Artists on the Greens 2007, where he attended a performance with the late Raf Robertson. I was however a fan of him and his music since 1977 when I heard his version of Sparrow’s “Mr Walker” on the car stereo. I mistakenly thought it was Dave Brubeck and was so impressed that “Sparrow gets along with a big name in jazz playing his music”. When I heard it was Zanda, I became a lifelong fan, ”recalls Campbell.
Clive Zanda then brought in Campbell to write the cover note essay on his reissue of his debut album, Clive Zanda is Here! With Dat King Ting Calypsojazz Innovations.
“I had the privilege of writing the backing note essay and interviewing her to better understand her true role in the local music scene. We (Production One) produced their 2018 concert performing that debut album, thus closing the circle of my first connection with music and the person, ”said Campbell.
Campbell said that Zanda, whose ivory talent has been heard live across North America and the Caribbean, “is kind of a pioneer in the way we see and hear our music in a new way. way”.
His contribution to the development of kaisojazz shows that our music, our calypso, can have a global presence beyond carnival. The end result of his experiments, which he began in the early 1960s, with mixing an expanded harmony and the language of jazz with the rhythms and ‘feel’ of calypso and our folk forms, created a path and defined the model here and regionally for a number of artists to follow.
“From Luther François, Annise Hadeed, the Boothman brothers, up to a new generation, including Etienne Charles and Élan Parl, have all found their inspiration and commercially developed careers and repertoires based on the work of Clive Zanda. It is an impact and a legacy that we must not ignore, ”concluded Campbell.