What Bradley Left Us

Knolly Moses

In his day, Clive Bradley embraced the Internet.  He was its richest content in pan and his work still fills YouTube, enlivened by his conducting antics on stages in Trinidad, Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He remains pan’s most iconic figure, perhaps because of this huge online presence. 

Bradley’s innovative ideas and memorable music adorned Panorama. But his creativity also conquered other genres. His covers of jazz and pop standards often outdid originals. Stirred by a passion for all music, his interpretations of such compositions  were precise and gentle. He wrapped deep feelings and his own moods into these songs.

He also took from all music charts. He loved Broadway’s show music, the free form of jazz and  popular film scores. Mostly, he adored love songs. “I have always been a diehard romantic,” he once confessed when our conversation strayed from Panorama. That may be why he said best what was in his heart in his treatment of these  standards. He rendered music’s finest melodies in ways that their complex emotions are universally understood.

My generation is grateful for his superb renditions of these tunes. We also pray newer generations may enjoy them, and value the legacy he and Desperadoes left us.

Don’t Cry for me Argentina
Bradley’s tender care of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina is packed with passion and pathos that seem perfect for steel band music. He opens with an optimistic promise that Eva Peron never won for herself or Argentina. But his calypso tempo maintains the melancholy composer Andrew Lloyd Webber intended. The haunting melody is an apt narrative for the tragic heroine. Bradley’s phrasing is sublime, with potent pauses and lively lines of his own that even the generals in Argentina then might have enjoyed.

Let the Music Play
Like lover’s rock with more pep, the tempo of this tune is deceptive. It feels slow but its rhythm is unrelenting. Bradley adjusts lines to suit his cultural sensibility, changing the beat and rephrasing passages. The lead and mid-range pans harmonize eloquently to give the verse a robust orchestration. The modulation is an exercise in restraint and Bradley’s highs and lows in this tune run the emotions of Jouvert and last lap.

Autumn Leaves
Joseph Kosma’s French song, with lyrics by Jacques Prevert, became a pop/jazz standard when American Johnny Mercer wrote English lyrics in 1947. Its pedigree is pertinent because Bradley chose standards with character and context; what resonated with local listeners, and what had shelf life. He shaped such music with rhythms Trinidadians embrace. His introduction in Autumn Leaves is almost melodramatic before he mellows into a foot tapping groove. Later, he repeats that intro as a bridge, and jazzes up the melody the way Miles Davis did in his first recording of it (1958) with the Cannonball Adderley’s Five Stars.

Love is a Many Splendored Thing
This won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1955 in the movie of the same title. Bradley renders the song’s sentiment superbly and puts love’s rawest emotions into his seductive arrangement. He repeats the verse fluidly in this song without a chorus. When the repetition seems about to induce a yawn he switches the melody to mid-range pans. Then he gives the tenors pitched energy with staccato lines that make the arrangement a truly splendid thing.

MORE – 2001
Bradley begins on the tonic note of this standard first made popular by Danish jazz trombonist Kai Winding. Its composers wrote More as a film score song for Mondo Cane (1962). Later, Quincy Jones arranged it for Frank Sinatra with the Count Basie Orchestra. It takes three and a half minutes for Bradley to get aggressive and massage his inimitable style into the tune. But he keeps his original tempo and eases back into this lover’s rock version that’s hard to forget.

Around since 1943, this song’s repetitive melody got a fresh tempo from Bradley. Its restrained energy makes you so want to chip for an entire carnival. The original title and the opening line "Amor, Amor, Amor" became "More and more Amor" in its English version. Bradley was patient with the song’s limited lines, carefully caressing them until he begins to improvise with jazz riffs to give personality to the music.

Bradley took his time with this tune until he built enough tension into what is really a lovers’ quarrel. 
You hear a tenor note sound like it’s cussing before reason returns. He brings a reflective narrative to an arrangement closer to George Benson’s and Al Jarreau’s covers than John Legend’s original. But Bradley’s imprimatur is in every mood swing. Choosing love stories and ​​their ambivalence was food for Bradley the romantic, though his cynicism and excesses outside of pan showed he admired other gods. “Music with strong emotions is always easier to express if the arranger can feel it himself,” Bradley once told a writer.

Bradley retains the energy of this insistent melody though the drummer was arguably a bit too assertive. Bradley savors the Latin flavour but doesn’t interfere with the tune, only taking liberties in the bridges he introduced. Venezuelan  Hugo Blanco wrote this song in 1958 at only 18.

You get a driving rhythm as sections of the band emphasize a phrase in every other line. It is complex for a steel band because Bradley had to capture many layers to make it true to the original. The orchestration is tricky, but Bradley was a master at blending percussive instruments into a harmonious whole. In a 1983 interview, he told me the 1950s North American big bands were his inspiration for steel band arrangements.

The Greatest Love
Despers play this love song most know by Whitney Houston with the finesse of  a choir. Bradley’s tempo pumps energy and joy into lyrics that are comforting but sad. This gently voiced arrangement remains popular though it was recorded way back in 1981. Bradley’s own melodic lines spark a more ambitious ending than composer Michael Masser might have imagined. Pan lovers will be listening to this fifty years from now.

This tune is less clever than other pop standards from Bradley, but he gives it an embracing warmth with an easy bridge. He also captures the same stridency in the chorus as Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes did in the original. The tune sounds a bit tinny on YouTube, but is enjoyable nonetheless, and is something to add to what Bradley left us.