Steel Drum Jazz
Resonance is five Pittsburgh guys playing steel drums (or pans), various percussion and string instruments, and influenced by pan pioneer Ellie Manette, who developed the instrument in Trinidad before WWII. Their album Steel Drum Jazz offers tunes ranging from reggae to funk and jazz standards, and features Dan Meunier on tenor pan and double seconds, Phil Webster on double seconds, Jay Weaver on guitar and synthesizer, George Elliott on bass guitar and guitar, and Subha Das on the trap drum set.
On the quintet's rendition of Bob Marley's reggae classic, "I Shot the Sheriff," steel drums lend a washtub-timbre vibraphonic taste to the classic. Though guitarist Weaver lays down a stirring, bluesy electric solo midway through, the arrangement adds little to the original version, simply substituting the steel drums for the traditional instrumentation while maintaining the familiar harmonies, phrasing and timing.
More daring is the third cut, Wayne Shorter's "Witch Hunt," featuring lively conga-led percussion starring Das on the drum set and some intriguing explorations of syncopation and minor key renderings. The traditional "Ramaya" captures the spirit of a street conga rap along with a vocal background reminiscent of African tribal chants. Elliott's funky bass drives Gershwin's classic "Summertime" along with a heavily syncopated snare drum; a melodic synthesizer provides a lilting background harmony, and the lead steel instrument is lyrical and pleasing in its tremolo styling.