(Originally published at OnePaper.com)
When members of The Original Danish PolCalypso Orchestra decided to share the musical styles of former territorial possessions the (now U.S.) Virgin Islands, they were called Karlekammeret. Bandleader Kazio Kierpaul took to the road and produced three albums (beginning in 1989) before he encountered his ‘guru’, James ‘Jamesie’ Brewster, on St. Thomas in 1995. The band was on its second tour of the Virgin Islands, and they had been trying to catch up with Jamesie since they began playing.
The ‘Quadrille’ and ‘Quelbe/Quailbae’ sounds represent a fusion of Danish dance music and the Calypso/Kaiso rhythms of the day (18-1900’s). With their main inspiration being Jamesie and the Happy Seven renderings of traditionals like ‘Me No Want That Woman (Living in a RumShop)’, Kazio and Co. could think of nothing more splendid than scooping up the lovably irascible icon and bringing him home to serenade their homeland. A successful live recording was the result, and plans were made to keep the family together for ever more.
The final concert of Jamesie’s second tour of Denmark has been immortalized in Se Acabo. The title cut was written by Jamesie, and reflects the Latin roots that are evident in the soul of Brewster’s home, St. Croix. As a band, Karlekammeret has evolved from the technically proficient licks of their early work to a more piquant stew of joyous vibrancy. If you have never heard Quelbe, or what Kierpaul calls PolCalypso, you will be able to sample the music at the band’s website (requires RealAudio). Follow the ‘Music’ link in the lefthand menu.
‘Jamesie’s Merengue’ kicks off the album with a Latin feel worthy of the Se Acabo (“It’s over”, or “Dog Dead” in V.I. parlance) title. The tune skips along with engaging solos throughout. ‘Kalabash’ features call and response amid a backdrop of Fungi band music replete with the sounds of triangle and flute. PolCalypso member Hans L. Pedersen contributes a brisk ‘Sidespring/Sidedish’ with plenty of room for bright sax forays up and down the scale.
Jamesie delivers a one-two punch with ‘Taste Some’ – doubtless, it is her kalaloo that will bring him back for seconds! A trip through Kierpaul’s special arrangement of another traditional melody, ‘Zoukpan’ lands us at the feet of Jamesie once again. This time, it is his ‘Se Acabo’ that quickens our feet and sends us anew to the dance floor.
The British Virgin Island of Tortola lends its name to Pedersen’s tune by the same name: its flute obligato brings to mind the island’s dove as it flits through the air. The pointed social commentary of ‘La Bega Carrusel’ features Jamesie’s voice; the determination in the lyrics is solid, even today. The Quadrille ‘Waltz St. John’ carries with it a feel for ‘old time days’. ‘Piv-i-Rov’ brings another classic into the mix, as do ‘Black Girl in the Ring’, ‘Sam Polo’ and ‘Aluscuro’. Jamesie’s ‘Helen’ romps shamelessly; Kazio Kierpaul’s ‘Guarano Fever’ completes the circle of 15 musical gems.
Copenhagen Calypso Records; you may listen to Se Acabo (CCR CD 2000-1) on the Polcalypso Orchestra’s Soundcloud page; for more, you may now visit the group at their Discogs page. Apple iTunes link.