The Power Of Steel I started sailing back in the 1970s, and on one of those early trips in the British Virgin Islands, we anchored off Tortola at a place called Cane Garden Bay. It had a beautiful horseshoe-shaped sandy beach ringed with palm trees. A cottage with a wrought iron gate sat smack in the middle, a tire hanging from a palm tree outside it's door. That night, sitting in the cockpit of our sloop under a canopy of stars with just a whisper of wind, I heard a beautiful sound drift over the water from the shore, a crystal clear sound I knew well. I couldn't believe it. I jumped up and went to the bow: A steel band was playing at this smoking little club. And the band was good - real good. We jumped in the dinghy and went ashore to find the place packed with locals and sailors, all grooving to the pans, all feeding off the energy and joy of the drums. The band played all night and the club didn't empty until the sun came up. That's the power of steel: It's addictive, seductive, and once it grabs you, it has you for life. It captured those sailors in it's thrall just as it has always held me - just as it does to most people who have ever heard the sound. I remember years ago, when I donated a set of pans to TheMetropolitan Museum of Art, the musical instruments curator ran from behind his desk because he couldn't believe what he heard coming from the drums I had a musician play for him. He bent over and looked under the pans and studied all surfaces looking for amplification. Later, a woman in the department heard the steel drums and said, 'It's the instrument of the future.' That was more than 20 years ago and the future is now. It really gets me that after all those years, and as beautiful as this instrument is, it's still largely neglected by mainstream musicians and the music industry itself - especially when played by Trinidadian musicians. Credit should be given where credit is due: Steel music originated in Trinidad and some of the most accomplished musicians today are from that island nation. Yet, very few of them are able to break the industry's glass ceiling. By ignoring this instrument, everyone loses - music lovers, musicians, culture. The advertising and film industries are really missing out by not taking advantage of the sound of the steel drum. Hey guys, you're not paying attention. You're missing the steel connection. I've been on a mission for more than 50 years to help the steel pan gain the respect and commercial success it deserves. I like to say that the steel drum is an original form of recycling. Pans are made from 55-gallon oil drums. The bottom is sawed off and then you sink the top by hammering it, dropping it about seven to nine inches. The trick is to stretch the steel without breaking it. Fires are sometimes built under the steel to temper it. Then each note is worked with the sledge hammer - you have to raise the note in the sunken part. And this is where the tuning begins. Bam, bam, bam! An hour and a half later, you hear harp-like sounds emerging from the note. The creation of a steel drum requires as much artistry, skill and labor as the creation of a grand piano. My first CD, Sweet Pans 'n Ivory, showed the versatility of steel music, how the pan beautifully translates not only calypso, but jazz and pop. Now I'm bringing you Cousins, which builds on the relationship between steel and jazz, steel and classical music, steel and popular song, steel and calypso. They are all cousins in the great family of music. I turned to an array of instruments for Cousins - double second steel drum, single tenor steel drum, piano and keyboards, trumpet, drums, bass, guitar, conga, timbales, bongos, and a quika to illuminate that same relationship. They, too, are cousins. And adding to the family are the musicians - Alston Jack, Wayne Birdie Kirton, Bertram Boldon, Manuel Ramos, Max Gouveia, Anthony Alexander, Gregory Rivero, Etienne Charles and Larry Marsben - and vocalists - Jess Luck, Joemca, Keith 'Designer' Prescott and Alvin Roberts. All are cousins. We open Cousins with a tribute to the steel drum called Pan Talent, a tune by Mighty Terror. It's upbeat feel easily swings into Irving Berlin's There Will Never Be Another You. Birdie's lovely ballad, Don't Play Me No Sad Songs, was written years ago and I'm honored that he allowed me to include it on Cousins. Vocals are by two family friends - Joemca, a talented young composer and musician, and the sparkling Jess Luck. I like the easy feel of the 1940s song A Sunday Kind of Love, and we do our own interpretation. It easily sets the tone for pretty little Blusette, the Norman Gimbel and Jean 'Toots' Thielmans jazzy and breezy waltz. Then we go in a different direction with Birdie's Ode to the King, a celebration of the late great pan master Rudolph King and his contribution to steel music. We had some fun with the haunting Matt Dennis-Earl Brent song, Angel Eyes, and turned it into a medley with the Billy Holiday-Arthur Herzog Jr. masterpiece, God Bless the Child. Joemca wrote I Hear a Chime at Midnight for Jess, whose crystal clear soprano is a perfect partner for steel. I think it's a beautiful segue to another tune I'm honored to include, Together, which was written and arranged by Jack. Only Trust Your Heart is a beautiful bossa nova by Benny Carter and Sammy Cahn that I fell in love with decades ago - especially after hearing Astrud Gilberto sing it. We end the CD with Beads of New Orleans, a calypso I wrote with Karen Miles for a special project we were asked to do for Mardi Gras. The music is by Jack and the song is arranged by Jack and Birdie. The popular calypsonian Designer does the vocals, with back up by Debra Haynes. We think we've captured the spirit of New Orleans on this tune, and I dedicate it to all those who suffered loss of family and homes in the horror of Katrina and it's aftermath. Cousins came together with a group of extraordinary artists. They are all special and talented in different ways, and without them, this CD would not have been made. Thank you Alston Jack, Wayne Birdie Kirton, Bertram Boldon, Manuel Ramos, Max Gouveia, Anthony Alexander, Gregory Rivero, Etienne Charles and Larry Marsben, and vocalists Jess Luck, Joemca, Keith 'Designer' Prescott and Alvin Roberts. My gratitude and appreciation to the many friends who dedicated time and endless support to our project, especially to Steve Lewis who had my back at every turn. May the power of steel live with you through Cousins. Bovain Hunt, New York City.