Next time you are in our neck of the woods, look up.
His Worship, the Mayor of Port of Spain, Joel Martinez, has formally renamed the corner of George and Duke Streets, the Neville Jules Junction. Neville Jules was synonymous with Hell Yard from the age of fourteen until his death in 2020 at the age of 92.
Born on May 21st, 1927, in East Port of Spain, Neville Jules joined Second Fiddle (an early name for Trinidad All Stars) in 1941. Known for his dexterity and swift hands, Jules was an innovator and a creator, an arranger and player.
By 1943 it was Neville Jules who began the process of moving away from back-up rhythm provided by tenor-kettles, cuffbooms, and du-dups, to the modern musical instruments that exist today. He took us away from “beating pan” to “playing pan”, and was the first person to voice melody, harmony, as well as rhythm on pans.
Neville, achieving the 8 notes of the full musical scale, triggered a creative explosion as numerous pioneers joined the effort to increase the number of notes. To concentrate solely on pan development Jules entrusted the administration of the band first to Fisheye Olliverre and later Prince Batson. He assumed the captaincy from 1948-1970 and was then officially acknowledged as the 7th Captain of the band that emerged from Hell Yard.
He would go on to develop his ‘family of pans’ – the steel orchestra. These included the Guitar Pan, the 6-Bass, and the Tenor Bass, which he specifically developed for his tune of choice for the 1954 Music Festival.
That the band is at its core a creative, dynamic, disciplined unit, and tenacious in purpose is because of the culture that Neville Jules instilled in the band by his actions and deeds. Jules’ creativity was not limited to manipulating steel with fire: he was truly a gifted musician. Neville’s musical arrangements from the 1940s to the early years of the 2000s are testimony to the power and durability of his creative genius.
It was Neville who developed the ‘Bomb’ concept – the calypso-isation of European Classics. Practiced with bare fingers in the Garret where only one section of the band at a time could be accommodated, the whole band played together for the first time when all the Pans were brought down to the street and the ‘Bombs’ were dropped on J’ouvert mornings. Trinidad All Stars has won countless Bomb competitions and competes annually in the eponymous Neville Jules Bomb Competition.
Neville Jules is the rock upon which we stand as an orchestra and an institution.