Andy Narell is an American steel drum virtuoso who has been working in France since 2001. The steel-panist is also founder of Sakésho, which also features drummer Jean-Philippe Fanfant.
Andy Narell recorded his first album as a leader in 1979 and has never looked back. He’s spent the past 39 years exploring the possibilities of the steel pan in contemporary music, and is equally known as a jazz improviser and steel band composer. His work is the subject of two documentary films - ‘Andy and the Jumbies’ and ‘Calypso Fever.’ In 2017 Narell was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame.
His most recent album release is ‘We Kinda Music,’ a collection of new and experimental music for steel band.
In 2013 Andy collaborated with Kwame Ryan and the Bordeaux Symphony for a concert featuring the same quintet with orchestra. Orchestral arrangements were by Isaac Narell.
The 2011 DVD release ‘ALIVE,’ which includes two full length documentaries about his work, as well as live concert footage and short videos. ‘Andy and the Jumbies’ takes us from the panyards of Trinidad to the streets of New York, and follows his projects with Trinidad All Stars and the great calypsonian Relator, also featuring interviews with David Rudder, Ray Holman, Peter Minshall, and Kim Johnson. ‘Calypso Fever’ documents Andy’s collaboration with Michael Abene and the WDR Big Band, with special guest Relator, for a sold out concert at the Koln Philharmonic in Germany.
Narell has made 16 albums as leader, one as co-leader with Relator (University of Calypso), two as co-leader of the Caribbean Jazz Project (with Paquito D’Rivera and Dave Samuels), and two as co-leader of Sakésho (with Mario Canonge, Michel Alibo, and Jean Philippe Fanfant). Along the way he has worked with artists as diverse as Bela Fleck, Marcus Miller, Chucho Valdes, Maraca y Otro Vision, Bebo Valdes, Irakere, Tito Puente, Orquestra Aragon, Pedrito Martinez, Flora Purim and Airto, Chico Pinheiro, Vince Mendoza, The WDR Big Band (Koln), The Metropole Orchestra (Holland), Sixun, Andre Ceccarelli, Bireli Lagrene, Spyro Gyra, Dr. Billy Taylor, Nancy Wilson, Etienne Charles, Mike Marshall, David Rudder, Black Stalin, Lord Superior, Andre Tanker, Kassav, Tanya St. Val, Jon Lucien, Anthony Joseph, Fra Fra Sound, Angelique Kidjo, Etienne Mbappe, Mokhtar Samba, Karim Ziad, Ray Lema, Kora Jazz Band, Jimmy Dludlu, Blick Bassy, Fatoumata Diawara, Vusi Mahlasela, Musik Y Afrika, Abderrahim Benthami, Meddy Gerville, Kepa Junkera, Philippe Lavil, Christophe Mae, Toto, Aretha Franklin, Keith Terry and Crosspulse, and the Kronos String Quartet.
He has performed on movie scores by James Horner, Maurice Jarre, Elmer Bernstein, Hans Zimmer, Michel Colombier, Thomas Newman, and Carmine Coppola, and his compositions are featured in the film ‘PAN - Our Music Odyssey,’ as well as ‘The Firm,’ TV shows like Designing Women and Going to Extremes, and commercials for Apple Computers, Sony, Porsche, and Southwest Bell.
As a bandleader and soloist he has played hundreds of concerts and jazz festivals throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, South America, and Africa.
In 1999 Andy became the first foreigner to compose for Trinidad’s Panorama steel band competition, guiding the 100 player Skiffle Bunch Steel Orchestra to the finals of both the 1999 and 2000 Panoramas. In 2007 he collaborated with Trinidad All Stars for a concert of his steel band music at the Trinidad and Tobago Steelpan and Jazz Festival.
In 2012 Andy began working with Birdsong Steel Orchestra in Trinidad, and composed music for the Panorama in 2013 (The Last Word) and 2014 (We Kinda Music). For 2015 he arranged Nyol Manswell’s ‘Pan Magic’ and returned to original composition in 2016 with ‘Dis 1. 4. Raf’.
He has been an artist in residence at Univ. of North Texas, Wichita St. Univ., Univ. of West Virginia, Univ. of Akron, Univ. of Illinois, Northern Illinois Univ., Miami Univ.(Ohio), Univ. of Southern Mississippi, Eastern Kentucky Univ., Univ. of Iowa, Northwestern Univ., Texas Tech Univ., Univ. of Delaware, Univ. of Missouri, Univ. of Arizona, Cal St. Univ. Long Beach, Humboldt St. Univ., Arizona St. Univ., Stanford Univ., Univ. of Washington, Calypsociation (France), Birdsong Academy (Trinidad), Laborie Steel Pan (Saint Lucia), Angel Harps (Grenada), Pan Village (Japan), Women in Steel(NYC), Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project, and many other schools.
Apart from his own recordings, he has worked as producer on many albums, including Billy Childs(4), Ray Obiedo(3), Kit Walker(2), Our Boys Steel Orchestra(2), Steve Erquiaga, The Bobs, Keith Terry and Crosspulse, Alex DeGrassi, Irene Farrera, Xoli Nkosi, and Prince Kupi.