CaneFire is seven musicians - four Cubans, two Canadians and a Trinidadian. Between them, they have honed their chops in the bands of an amazing assortment of headliners from Shiela E. to Jane Bunnett and performed in such diverse ensembles as the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Victory Traditional Jazz Band. Each has more than their fair share of accomplishments to their credit. But as an ensemble what has made them special is an idea that Toronto pianist and composer Jeremy Ledbetter had a few years ago.
Jeremy Ledbetter, producer and bandleader for Trinidad calypso legend, David Rudder, put together CaneFire in 2005 to perform the Caribbean rooted music that is inspired by his world travels and listening. Jeremy is a versatile young composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist who has covered a lot of ground in his short musical career. Jeremy grew up in Kitchener, Ontario, and was classically trained on the piano from the age of seven. He later went on to complete a degree in jazz performance at York University in Toronto. Having lived and worked in Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Cuba, the USA, and Nicaragua, Jeremy has acquired a wide range of musical influences to draw on in his compositions. As a performer or musical director he has shared the stage with Charlie’s Roots, Atlantik, Eliana Cuevas, Percy Sledge, Ralph MacDonald, and Andre Tanker, touring extensively throughout North America, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Since 2002, Jeremy has worked with Trinidadian legend David Rudder, filling the multiple roles of pianist, musical director, arranger and producer. In 2004, Jeremy was musical director of “The Rhythm River,” a concert featuring Rudder and world-renowned pannist Andy Narell, at Toronto’s Hummingbird Centre.
In 2006 CaneFire released their debut CD - Kaiso Blue. It was the first time that Ledbetter had produced a CD of his own compositions. Since the CD release the band has taken their music from their Toronto base to the beaches of Trinidad to the rocky shores of Newfoundland, with a bunch of other stops in between. Their performance credits include the Beaches International Jazz Festival, Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, and Lula Lounge, the Northern Lights Festival Boreal in Sudbury, the Atlantic Jazz Festival in Halifax, the St. John’s Jazz Festival, Toronto’s Caribana Parade, the Downtown Oakville Jazz Festival and the Jazz and Steelpan Festival, Port of Spain, Trinidad, where the band has performed three times.
What stands out in CaneFire’s instrumentation, giving the band a unique sound, is the steelpan- the Trinidadian percussion instrument that has transformed oil barrels into sound vessels. Mark Mosca, Trinidadian born virtuoso, has raised the instrument to a new level of expression. He leads his own pan ensemble, The Silhouettes and has performed with the Winnipeg Symphony and at the Havana Jazz Festival among other accomplishments.
Jeremy Ledbetter’s piano and compositions coupled with Mark’s steel pan are backed up in stellar fashion by four Cubans - Alex Baro’s trumpet; Chendy Leon’s drumming; Alberto Suarez’ percussion and Yoser Rodriguez’ bass. Add Canadian emerging sax colossus Braxton Hicks’ horns and what emerges is a first rate jazz ensemble with a repertoire of original music and a sound that is all its own. Each player has more than their share of individual credits but as an ensemble they surpass their individual talents with a sound that blends the Latin and African folk traditions of the Caribbean with Trinidadian carnival and not so straight ahead jazz. French Caribbean ‘zouk’, Puerto Rican plena, Brazilian samba and ‘olodun’, a variety of Cuban rhythms from ‘bata’ to ‘chachalokefun’, jazz, blues and all of it smothered in Trinidadian calypso and steel band. The tunes are an intriguing mixture of influences from everywhere and the solos draw on the deep roots of the players, with the steelpan always bringing it all home.
CaneFire is a young band that reflects what Toronto has become- a cosmopolitan city where musicians from diverse cultures mix and match- producing sounds that come from everywhere but owe their primary allegiance to the common ground they share. CaneFire is also a treat for the ears- music that moves heart, hips and head.
CaneFire is working on their second recording and will be touring British Columbia and other lucky places in the summer of 2009.