A groundbreaking force in steel panning who has pretty much single-handedly forged a jazz-inflected genre all his own, Andy Narell again showed the world the vast potential of his chosen instrument on his 2004 album, The Passage; that disc featured a 30-piece steel pan orchestra from Paris called Calypsociation, in addition to jazz legends Michael Brecker, Hugh Masekela, and Paquito d'Rivera. While perhaps not as logistically complex in scope -- Narell sticks to three incredible soloists, Mike Stern, saxman David Sanchez, and percussionist Luis Conte to enhance his lively panning -- Tatoom was another forward-thinking set. Rather than record 30 pan players live, Narell meticulously recorded the six free-flowing ten-plus-minute tracks one instrument at a time. He began with computer sequences of the music, incorporated the hypnotic and joyfully aggressive drums of Mark Walker and Jean-Philippe Fanfant, then added Conte's congas and percussion. He then added an assortment of brake drums and cowbells, later his pans (one at a time!) and his solos, and finally the solos by Stern and Sanchez. Stern's are energetically played but, interestingly, somewhat distant in the mix on the shimmering and lively "Baby Steps" and spirited but slightly more brooding "Blue Mazooka." Sanchez's lyrical horn and passionate improvisation matches Narell's wild energy on "Tabanca" and shows the seamless way that the pans can fit into a traditional jazz context. The jubilant closing track, "Appreciation," was originally composed for the 2000 Panorama competition in Trinidad and performed by the 100-player steel band Skiffle Bunch; Narell's expanded version here has a simpler arrangement, but makes for a rousing finish to yet another top-notch effort.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran