BHR Reviews: Jude Jean makes his return with live album by Stil

Tet Kole (Live)

“Fanatic Malades” (Dedicated fans) in the U.S. have been waiting quite some time to hear the “Stil” sound in live format and, alas, what Haitian fans have long been exposed to is finally available. The album, “Tet Kole” is a collection of seven live performances released on the Tropikal Records label.
The slow and painful demise of the band, K-Dans, heralded the end of an era in Haitian music where it ranked and ruled alongside major players like Zin and Mizik Mizik. The mid 1990s were a time when Haitian bands began to reassert themselves with a little more of the influence and finesse of popular American music. Lead singer Jude Jean at that time was the reserved but undeniably gifted crooner whose skills could match or at least second the vocal feats of American acts like Boyz to Men and perhaps even Jodeci.
Things took a turn of the worst as the millennium introduced a new set of aggressive Konpa acts that caused K-Dans to second guess its musical direction. Unfortunately, as that doubt played itself out, the band unceremoniously parted with the tame Jean to test a more riotous approach to their live performances.
Long story short, Jude Jean eventually teamed up with the founders of Mizik Mizik and released the album, “Reveil”, his first solo effort. The final demise of K-Dans brought Jude back to a new collaboration with some of his former band mates in a new line up named “Stil”. The new band’s membership included keyboardist Alfred Lataille and guitarist Duke Fontaine aka “Didi Santana” among others.
Stil’s “Tet Kole” is styled after the long running live recordings usually released after a successful studio release. The album features a mix of new and old compositions and never rests instrumentally. Its best moments include a live rendition of their new song “Foli”, a fantastic melody accompanied by a treasure chest of grooves from both Alfred and Didi. Jude Jean’s solo hit “Bonita” is also featured live and matched by K-Dans classics like “Ki Lang” and the run away hit collaboration between Jude and Shedley Abraham for his Djazz La series “De Tanzantan”.
“Tet Kole” is a decent release for a live album. The players are talented and totally display their desire to win a place among the industry’s new leaders. The songs featured are strong choices that are mostly well performed and were things not a bit overdone instrumentally at times it would be a stronger product. The issue that hinders “Tet Kole” is one of dynamics and there are simply too many guitar and synth notes battling for the spotlight that should be on Jude Jean when he’s singing the verses. Jude is also a bit out of his element in the animation department and perhaps a new recruit might take on that role in future releases.
“Tet Kole”, despite its flaws, is definitely something to check out if only to discover a few of the fine moments in groove that Alfred and Didi share.

Pran Sans Ou

Cap Haitien’s most famous institution – L’Orchestre Tropicana – recently released its latest gems to its legions of faithful and adoring followers. The album, “Pran Sans Ou” is an independent release comprised of 10 original compositions.
Haiti’s beloved musical enterprise remains, like Henry Christophe’s Citadel, the pride of the North and among its most resilient institutions. The Orchestra was birthed in the late 1950s and has survived Haiti’s best and worst crises. It has taken care of its aged founders over the years and been a steady employer of the Cap’s talented young musicians. While its modern products do not maintain a consistent presence on popular charts, Tropic never fails to spring the occasional surprise album chock full of character and hits to boot.
Tropic’s “Pran San Ou” continues along the band’s traditional vein. Luckily, the band’s elder statesman— the renowned lead singer, Parisien Fils Aime— is there to guide the younger band members through the album’s best songs. Parisien’s voice is the charm of pieces like, “Decide’w” adorned with an array of fine horns, a captivating melody, robust harmonies and the distinct African taint that has always marked the sound of the band. The song, “Sa bel” marked with the subtle swing that has made Tropic famous is among the memorable pieces manned by Parisien’s solid tone. Another notable tune is the song “Defi” armed with a fine message and an arrangement that hails back to the best of Tropic’s traditional interplay of horns, vocals and groove.
“Pran Sans Ou” is a tolerable release for a band that has done much to place the Cap-Haitian groove on Haiti’s map. The album is well mixed and signals a return to the arrangements that made the albums of the late 1970s and early 1980s famous. While the work is disciplined and well performed overall there is the absence of the earthy grit that made past works a little more robust. The congas are repressed, and the grooves a little too civilized and predictable and that has a definite effect on the swing of quite a few compositions. Tropic’s fine array of young singers all perform well but definitely need the seasoning that live performances and transcription of the band’s former hit albums can provide.
Lovers of the Tropic charm are nonetheless well served by this release. I should mention that Mizik Mizik’s Fabrice Rouzier makes a surprise appearance on one among the many fine songs on this album. Discover his fine contribution soon –go get you a copy homie!
International Perfumes and Discount invites one and all to its traditional sidewalk sales event on June 6 and 7 from 10a.m. to 8p.m. Mark the dates on your calendars and get a few more of your favorite albums at a great price! For more information contact Patrick St. Germain at his store located at 860 Morton Street, Dorchester, 617-825-6151.