The Humboldt Calypso Band

The Humboldt Calypso BandThe Humboldt Calypso Band was founded in 1986 by percussionist Eugene Novotney. The band was originally created as an extended percussion ensemble consisting of two marimbas, vibraphone, drumset, conga, percussion and a single tenor pan playing the melody. The name, Humboldt Calypso Band, was chosen because most of the early arrangements performed by the group were simple versions of traditional calypso songs. As more pans were acquired by the group, the mallet instruments were replaced with a full complement of steel drums, and the Humboldt Calypso Band was transformed from its hybrid percussion ensemble origins into a conventional steelband. Dedicated to the performance of traditional and contemporary music from the Caribbean, Africa, Brazil and the United States, all members of the group work toward the common goal of advancing the state of the art of steelband performance. 

The Humboldt Calypso Band strives to maintain an accurate and authentic connection to the roots of the steelband movement and the innovative musicians of Trinidad, the island nation on which this unique percussion phenomenon was born. The core members of the group, Howard Kaufman, JohnSalazar, Eugene Novotney and Michael Skweir, have performed together for over ten years, and have travelled to Trinidad, where they played in the National Panorama Competition with such bands as the Hummingbird Pan Groove, the Phase II Pan Groove, and Starlift. Panorama arrangements greatly influence the band’s repertoire and intrumentation, and many of the arrangements on this recording are adaptations of Panorama tunes that members of the band originally performed in Trinidad. The Humboldt Calypso Band enjoys experimenting with creating their own adaptations and arrangements, and has worked closely with Trinidad composer and arranger Ray Holman, to fine tune their versions of his exciting selections on this recording. In addition to several of his Panorama tunes, the Humboldt Calypso Band performs two original selections composed by Ray Holman during his residency in the band’s home town of Arcata, California. These two selections, Mariella’s Dance and Samba de Arcata, also feature the outstanding performances of Ray Holman as a special guest pan soloist. The Humboldt Calypso Band has chosen to nama this disc Pan on the Move, to honor Ray Holman’s legacy of original composition for steelband to be entered into Trinidad’s National Panorama Competition. Previously, transcriptions of popular Calypso tunes were the dominant repertoire of most bands. Holman’s historic break with tradition has now influenced decades of composers and arrangers to create new music for pan, and we are grateful for Ray’s significant contributions to this recording.

All of the pans heard on this recording were created by Trinidadian, Clifford Alexis. Mr. Alexis, a world class builder, tuner, composer and performer, has toured the world with the historic National Steel Band of Trinidad and Tobago, and is the builder and tuner for many of the professional and university steelbands across the United States. He is presently on the staff of Northern Illinois University, where he co-directs the NIU Steelband, and continues his research on the principles behind the construction and tuning of steel drum instruments. The Humboldt Calypso Band owes much to Clifford Alexis, for it is not only his instruments, but also his spirit, which has helped the group grow from its infancy to its present level of performance.

Thanks for everything, Cliff!

1 Pan
2 Mariella’s Dance
3 Pan on the Move 
4 Jam It With You 
5 Song to the Chiricahua 
6 Steelband Paradise 
7 This Feelin’ Nice 
8 Samba de Arcata 
9 Panic