Since I spoke with Les Slater this morning about the passing of Junior Pouchet, related to me by his family in Orlando, I’ve been playing Silver Stars’ double CD, 27 cuts by Junior’s band and nine by his brother Edwin’s. Their playlist has never sounded finer or resonated deeper.
I cooked up some split peas and rice and curried chicken with potato.
That’s how I honored Junior Pouchet. I also called Edwin in Trinidad to offer condolences but the person who answered said he wasn’t speaking with anyone. However, she said the family very much appreciated a piece I wrote the week before the 2012 Carnival (Feb. 12) - A Tale of Two Brothers and Their Band.
This is not normal behavior for me - death and funerals. But Junior was in the foxhole with both Les and me during those musical salvos (Bombs) on J’Ouvert in the late 50s and early 60s.
From their 1970 album “Steelband Carnival,” Silver Stars’ interpretation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Abduction from The Seraglio” arranged by leader Junior Pouchet.
My mind keeps harking back to an afternoon two weeks ago when he called to thank me for the story. After some small talk about Pan, he came off playful and happy while mouth-panning the gems orchestrated by other bands in the era, including Crossfire’s On a Another Night Like This, Highlanders’ and Slater’s Waltz from the Opera Faust, Cordell Barbours’ Night and Day (City Symphony), among others, including a few by All Stars. We spoke about those heady times for an hour. How he was trying to recruit me to join his band while I was still in school. (I’d always tell him, once a Trinidad All Stars always an All Stars.) How he swung his band down Charlotte Street just so he’d leave his mark there, even though we’d be doing our own thing downtown.
“It wouldn’t have been right if we didn’t drop our Bomb in front of Maple Leaf Club (and the Garret or attic, where the band rehearsed),” he said. “That was our moment to shine.”
It was as though he had opened up his heart that afternoon for a brother, because we’ve always been brothers - in the same hole.
Here’s how former Trinidad All Stars captain and arranger Neville Jules reminds those who say that Junior Pouchet has been Pan’s unsung hero:
“Pouchet was no unsung hero. He was the real thing - a tough competitor. A great steel band man. We always had to worry about what he was coming with - his next Bomb. His music. Always.”
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