by Kimberley Cummins
Whenever he holds a sax in his hands, blows into the mouth piece, the reed vibrates then he presses the keys to play music, an indescribable feeling takes over Arturo Tappin.
It doesn’t matter which type of saxophone he is playing; it could be the soprinino, soprano, alto, tenor or baritone – music takes control of his body.
In the next few weeks Barbados will get an opportunity to see and enjoy the effects music has on him when they go out to support City Nights – The Concert, which features him as well as talented Jazz vocalists CiCi and Marisa Lindsay. Though he has made some appearances on stages across the island over the past few years, he has not been a part of a full fledge concert at the Frank Collymore Hall in close to 20 years.
In an interview recently with Bajan Vibes, Tappin told us the upcoming show there is a very important milestone for him and he was steadfastly preparing himself to give 150 per cent to make this show dynamic.
Around the world he is known as the smoothest, ‘saxiest’ horn man the Caribbean has to offer. So just as he has impressed audiences and been able to win fans, including presidents from all corners of the globe, with his dynamic and spirited performances he promised so too will patrons in the hall be treated.
The 47-year-old musician has a long resum√; he has served as the Musical Director for Eddy Grant, recorded with Grammy recipients Ralph MacDonald and the late great Luther Vandross. He has performed with the legendary Roberta Flack, hard bop Trumpeter Red Rodney, Grammy Award winning drummer Roy Haynes, reggae super star Maxi Priest, R & B chart topper Anita Baker, Jamaican Jazz pianist and Guitarist Monty Alexander and Ernest Ranglin, South African Jazz Legend Hugh Masekela, smooth jazz crooner Will Downing and R & B singer Freddie Jackson.
He entertained large audiences at the Soho Jazz Festival, the Bob Marley Birthday Bash and Reggae Sunsplash, as well, he has headlined jazz festivals throughout the Caribbean.
However, before all of the fame gained through the years with these performances and his three albums, Strictly Roots Jazz, Java and more recently Inside Out, he first made a name for himself as a young musician on the island.
Tappin attended Combermere School where he was introduced to the violin at age 11 under the tutelage of James Millington. At 15-years-old he started the Manjack band with Nicholas Branker, Adrian Branker, Stephen Clarke, Carol George, Andrew Millington and brothers Mark and Ian Gajadhar with his cousin now opposition Barbados Labour Party leader Mia Mottley as the manager.
From there he began to play with the likes of Ernie Small at the Bel Air Club. Small, he said, really helped him a lot, he taught him that ‘every note must have value’. After this, he jammed with the Merry Men on the Jolly Roger, Spice & Co. in the Ware House, Boo Rudder in the Flambouyant room at the Hilton hotel, BRC in Studio 10 Vere Gibson in Fisherman’s Wharf, Vere Miller, Lloyd Wilson Jr. and El Verno Del Congo.
“There were other [children my age] who were 100 per cent better than me but their parents discouraged them, my dad- Art Tappin, never discouraged me in pursuing music. My dad took me every where, he didn’t mind because he liked jazz,” said Tappin.
“I wasn’t even aware of who these people were or the significance at age 15, all I knew is that I practised a lot and I got the opportunity to play with these people. Only over the years I realised, ‘that was Ernie Small on trumpet, Lloyd Wilson on organ … Vere …’. In those days I was the youngest guy around even interested in jazz. They were young people in R & B but not many young horn players playing or even interested in playing jazz. I was embraced by the older musicians and that is part of the reason why I make an effort to share with the younger players. Though the older men may not have had the traditional education they learnt a lot by doing it everyday and they taught me… I learned something from each one of them,” he said passionately.
Being in the business now for close to 30 years, his advice to other musicians was to reinvent themselves and always be passionate about what they were doing.
He said: “I still have the same passion I had when I first picked up the sax and began to play music. I enjoy teaching, sharing, playing, jamming… I listen to what the young people are listening to to keep updated. I play the Charlie Parkers but I can still play Bruno Mars, John Legend, Rupee and when I’m ready I sneak a little Aidonia in.
“I enjoy playing all kinds sounds of music, so [patrons to the show] gonna get a touch of everything. It’s for people who love music, it will be a full musical menu.”
The Berklee College graduate has two rottweilers, Mulan and Back To Black, which he loves dearly. He was very influenced by his former hockey coach and English teacher, Colonel Deighton Maynard, and one day hopes to establish a finishing school or a school of excellence for young musicians in Barbados. [email protected]