One of the most exciting up-and-comers among a new generation of saxophonists, Elan Trotman has emerged as an exhilarating force in the world of contemporary jazz. As a composer, performer, teacher and recording artist, Elan excels in every setting. Elan has been the recipient of the award for Best Jazz Male at the New England Urban Music Awards and was nominated for a Boston Music Award in Jazz. His playing, though inspired by Arturo Tappin, Grover Washington Jr and Kirk Whalum, features his own tone and fresh ideas.
Born and raised in Barbados and educated at Berklee in Boston, Elan approaches jazz in his own way. Blending Caribbean rhythms from his roots with skillful horn textures, his playing is full of surprises. Elan states, “I don’t want to limit myself to the usual format. I stretch out, take chances, and add an edge to my solos. I enjoy the genre and the concept but I also break some of the rules because that’s how I play live, bringing all of my different influences into the music.” Both inspiring and impressive, Elan’s music is never predictable.
FROM THE BEGINNING
Growing up in Barbados, Elan remembers hearing calypsos, reggae and local music in his early days. He started with piano lessons when he was seven, taking up the saxophone five years later. When Elan was in high school, saxophonist Arturo Tappin became his mentor. “That’s when I became more exposed to other genres outside of our native music. Arturo Tappin went to Berklee in the late 1980s when he returned to the island he brought with him a lot of information on American jazz. He liked to fuse calypsos and reggae with jazz.” While in high school, Elan led his own band, performing at shows on campus. He worked with a couple of gospel groups, eventually forming his own combo, Inspiration, playing at local shows and festivals. Elan was also inspired by Grover Washington Jr. and other contemporary musicians who performed at the Barbados Jazz Festival.
Elan was awarded a full scholarship to Berklee by the Barbados government, and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education. “At Berklee, the most beneficial thing for me was the environment since it is such a melting pot of talents. We all learned from each other, taking solos, sitting in with people, and interacting with each other. I learned to be a more well-rounded musician.” Because he has always had a passion to be an educator, Elan became an elementary music teacher in the Boston public school system shortly after he graduated, and it is a role that he still enjoys today.
Elan has recorded and performed with such notables as Roberta Flack, Kirk Whalum, Brian McKnight, Johnny Gill, Tony Terry, Nathan East, Najee, Don Grusin, Peter Gammons and Bronson Arroyo to name a few. Elan’s love for sports and his relationships with athletes and teams afforded him the opportunity to perform the National Anthem on numerous occasions for such teams as the Boston Celtics, the Boston Red Sox, the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He put together a band for NBA star Ray Allen’s wedding and performs annually for Theo Epstein’s charity event “Hot Stove Cool Music.” Elan says, “I hope that everyone, including people of all ages who might listen to straight-ahead jazz, smooth jazz, rock or gospel, enjoys the music and the performance. It’s for them.”
Trotman’s music has that unique edge where its vibe is instantly seductive and familiar but also offers some explosive playing and compositional challenges. For his latest CD, This Time Around, he wrote or co-wrote 13 of the 15 tracks which are full of catchy hooks, warm melodies, and danceable rhythms. Trotman effortlessly displays his talents on the tenor and soprano sax as well as on flute throughout the project. He is assisted along the way by a variety of talented vocalists and musicians including guitarist Tyrone Chase, trombonists Derrick White and Andre Hayward, trumpeter Patriq Moody and drummer Nikki Glaspie to create his most compelling recording to date. His first single "Lovely Day" debuted at #38 on Jazz Week's Smooth Jazz Chart and peaked at #6 on Smooth Jazz Indie Star Chart and at #48 on Smoothjazz.com's Top 50 Chart.
Prior to This Time Around, Elan recorded three CDs. His debut, Memories, has Caribbean music with steel drums, a song written in tribute to Arturo Tappin, a few funky tunes, and some gospel music. Let’s Have A Good Old Time is a gospel jazz album that showcases Elan’s jazz influences and improvisations on church songs along with modern harmonies. One special song is a two tenor feature with Kirk Whalum that is inspired by the older Sonny Stitt/Gene Ammons feature on “Blues Up And Down.” For the spontaneous project The Reggae Christmas, Elan recorded a set of Christmas songs for friends and family but, due to the great demand, he makes the music available each Christmas season.