Jazz lovers, music students and fans of the genre will gather at the Little Carib Theatre in Woodbrook on October 3 from 8 p.m., as local chanteuse, Caroline Mair presents “A Night of Jazz”—her first concert performance of the year. Part proceeds from this event will go to the Cotton Tree Foundation and patrons will receive a complimentary glass of wine on entry. Mair will be accompanied by a renowned cast of musicians, including: Gregg Assing on piano, Modupe Onilu on drums, Busco on guitar, Solman and band on drums and didgeridoo, as well as Sharda Patasar on sitar and a few other surprise guests. For the young lawyer, painter and singer, it’s a return to the creative hobby that almost became her full-time career.
“The creative spirit in Trinidad is phenomenal,” Mair enthused, “and it’s not just Carnival, it’s everything. I feel really lucky and blessed to be coming from a place like this. The results of centuries of different cultures mixing and mingling is really beautiful and I want to bring more of that into my music to reflect that mix.
“Pat Bishop was my mentor. RIP to her spirit. I used to do literature lessons by her and she found out I could sing and started making me sing in front of people, which was really embarrassing at first. But it really took off in university because Philadelphia had a big jazz scene going on and I started off singing opera actually. I really wanted to become an opera singer and had started looking at a couple of conservatories, but I decided against it because it really wasn’t my first love and if you’re doing that (opera), you can’t do it on the side—you really have to dedicate your life to it all the way.”
Although she was accepted into a popular conservatory, Mair declined to attend and went on to pursue her BA in Caribbean Postcolonial Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a law degree LLB (Hons) from Queen Mary, University of London and law master’s degree LLM (Hons) from Inns of Court School of Law.
“Everything I’ve done in my career has been about the Caribbean,” she admitted. “Why I went into International Law is to look at developing and developed countries and look at countries after colonisation to see how the laws that govern our lives are treated with and who has a say in making them. International law is the one place I found where developing countries actually made a huge contribution and had a say, as opposed to trade law, where we had little to no say. The alliance of small island states from the Caribbean and the Pacific and Angela cropper who passed away last year also, they really pushed the envelope and made sterling contributions and really were listened to and affected policy changes for the world. I think as small islands, we have more power than we think we do. We’re not just dots. So, I’m really passionate about our existence in this regard, but it can be stressful seeing what mankind is doing to our environment—so that’s where the art and the music comes in to give me some positive reinforcement and balance.”
Recently married to Ryan Toby, Mair will soon migrate to London and a totally different landscape and lifestyle, but nevertheless, the talented young lawyer still intends to make more time in her life for her music. “After getting my law degree, my grandmother and my fiance at the time both passed away and I guess jazz really helped me through it,” she recalled. “I returned to Trinidad and Satchmo’s had just opened up and I was having lunch there one day and heard the musicians playing and my sister encouraged me to try out with them. I didn’t know anyone there, but I stepped up to them and basically told them I want to sing. They didn’t really take me on that day, but I was working at a law firm nearby then, so everyday on my lunch break I would go over and harass them until they eventually asked me to sing something, and I blew them away—if I do say so myself. So I became a lounge singer there. I sang about twice or three times a week, every week for about a year, and its given me a solid, yet fun, avenue of expression that I realise I need in my life. In the jazz realm, it’s hard to do original stuff because many people just want to hear the standards, but I like this format because you get to play and have fun still.It’s not standard following-rules-jazz, its more an expression of me, and with the band, its an expression of us, Caribbean people, making good music, what could be better?”
Tickets available at the Little Carib.