Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Clarke and sax on fire


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If you ever doubted that musicians in Barbados are in demand, take a peek at Mylon Clarke’s schedule.

The saxophonist is either happily making music with the Mylon Clarke Quartet, Arturo Tappin, Spice Company, NJ3O or Saxes On Fire or teaching part-time at his alma mater, the Parkinson Memorial Secondary School every day of the week but one. On that one “free” day you may well find him at the Barbados Community College with the music students, showing them a thing or two and learning a few new musical tricks.

“On Tuesdays I play at Sandy Lane, Wednesdays I play at The Club Barbados, Thursdays I play at The Old Jamm Inn and I try to leave my weekends open in case I have to tour with Arturo. If I don’t, Sunday afternoon I do Savannah with my band and every other Sunday night is Savannah as well,” said the busy session musician.

His eponymous quartet includes bassist Damien Neblett, Darin Bailey, well known for being Machel Montano’s musical director, and David Burnett, whom Clarke described “as the best drummer in the Caribbean”.

His newest musical project, Saxes On Fire, was performed at the recent Tin Pan Alley concert, and it was there that Clarke spoke to BUZZ about how the group was formed and how he has shaped his musical path.

“Saxes On Fire began in August for CARIFESTA Youth Concert, inspired by Summer Horns, which is a [collaboration by] Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair, Dave Koz, and Richard Elliot, four of the biggest sax names in smooth jazz. They play a lot of the 80s and 90s pop hits, Earth Wind And Fire, Stevie Wonder and Motown music.

“I wanted to work with young players that have the same passion, the same drive, the same love for their instrument and music because I know that as a youngster building a brand and trying to get gigs it’s pretty difficult to get the opportunity. The guys I work with in Saxes On Fire, I’ve known them from seeing them at school. Two of them are at Combermere, one is at Barbados Community College and one graduated last year. It started to create a door for them to perform,” he said.

While Tin Pan Alley was only their second gig, Clarke said “if all goes well”, he, Kofi Giles, Kymani Gilkes, Zukele Inniss and Romario Wilkinson could be playing at the Holetown Festival and Holder’s Season next year.

The saxophonist said that with Gilkes and Inniss still at school, they rehearse using social media, given that they are not always able to get together. He explained that the song chosen is posted in a group chat with specifics on the harmony and arrangements, then each saxophonist has “homework” to do, and when they get together they play and make adjustments to suit.

Concerning his career, Clarke told BUZZ that he had his parents’ support. He noted that he had learnt a lot from his mentor Arturo Tappin and shared that knowledge with younger musicians.

“He’s told me to be a brand in demand. I tell all the youngsters coming up to ‘go to every gig, or every jam session regardless of the pay; play, network and make friends and eventually people will start talking about you’. They have to get out there and advertise the product. If you have a product and nobody knows about it, it’s not going to sell.

“You never know who is watching. You may go do a gig and either one of the musicians has to travel, gets sick or just can’t make it and you’re recommended. You go there and somebody in the audience is listening and asks, ‘Can I get you to play at my wedding’? You go play at the wedding and somebody else that’s there says, ‘I’m a food and beverage manager at a hotel…’ This is how it goes; this has happened to me,” he said, chuckling. (GBM)


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