• Great Live Moments - Andy Narell plays a pan by Ellie Manette

    July 18, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    "The Hammer" comes from 1988, the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, live on "New Year's Eve Coast to Coast." That night on WBGO and NPR, Carmen McRae sang with the Mel Lewis Orchestra at the Vista Hotel (destroyed 9/11/01) with intermission music by the late Patti Bown, and Moore by Four opened for Harry Connick Jr. at the Dakota in St. Paul, MN. Andy was on a double bill with Queen Ida's band from Louisiana. Pans & zydeco!

    Andy Narell always wants to tell you the history of his instrument, the steelpan. In the late 1930s, Trinidadian drummers of African descent began to fabricate tuneful instruments from the heads of 55-gallon oil barrels. In 1946, Elliott "Ellie" Manette (or Mannette) made a concave drumhead, the first steelpan. Andy Narell told WBGO's JazzSet that in 1947, Manette made history hammering the Brahms Lullaby on it, on Port au Spain radio. Pans on radio!

    For a short Andy Narell solo on a pan made by Ellie Manette, as played live on WBGO in 1980, click here.

    In 2000, when Manette received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the West Indies, he said that no one person invented the pan. It took a group and was an evolutionary process. Today, Manette continues to improve his pan making and, as Artist-in-Residence at West Virginia University, coordinates Pan Studies. Has anyone reading along ever seen him play?

    Narell - born in New York City in 1954 - became passionate about steelpan music as a young man. The day he came to WBGO for an on-air interview with host Al Pryor, he was promoting his first LP, Hidden Treasure (now on CD). As mentioned, Andy brought a pan made by Manette and played a solo. In the free-flowing interview, Andy talked about working in a summer camp in redwood forest in California, teaching kids to play the pans. Hear a clip here.

    Especially when it' s hot, the hammering of even one note on a steelpan opens your heart and lets the colors in. Pans are the sound of sunshine!


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