Ray Holman is elegantly fluent as a composer with the steel instrument. His music for steel bands in Trinidad is without equal, all memorable and many now standards in the genre. That he’s also a superb player is not widely known. Now he puts everyone on notice with In Touch, his first solo album.
The music is a lively blend of jazz influences sautéed with his native calypso. The mood is contemporary, with enough vitality in Ray’s engaging melodies to broaden the appeal of what is now called “Pan Jazz” in the Caribbean.
Ray has always written music about love and loss. He explores these emotions without apology, open and up front about deep feelings of everything that touches his big heart.
All bright and optimistic, his compositions reveal thoughtful design. Structures are understated but precise, moods are carefully defined and style is studiously lyrical. His logic from note to note is exquisite.
Ray’s playing is as easy as his personality and as restrained as the silence he so artfully slips into critical places. Caressing an instrument particularly percussive in its response, his performance here shows flawless technique. His solos have the pacing of American jazz great Lester Young and the purpose of Rupert Clemendore, an accomplished Trinidadian jazz musician of the 1950s.
Ray put much of his heart into this project, reluctantly missing a festival in Trinidad to honor his music so he could finish the CD. Listeners will be grateful. It is a rich trove, composed with intelligence and panache. His supporting musicians seem to be having as much fun as Ray, especially the effusive Rick Royal on tenor sax.
All the tunes have special worth, but Living in a Dream, Memory of Your Smile and Bazodee certainly remind me why I became a fan of Ray’s music.