In The Beginning…

Kalabash emerged in 1993, evolving out of an ensemble built around composer/pianist Carlton Zanda, known as “The Coalpot Band”. On the very first Kalabash gig, done as a ‘pickup’ group for the Caribana Media Launch in ’93, Tony Rabalao played the drum kit. The rapport between the players was so great on this first gig that we resolved to form a permanent ensemble, exploring a unique form of jazz that reflected the Caribbean heritage of most of the band members and that also featured the steeldrum as a lead instrument.

The founding members of Kalabash were:

  • Demo Cates – saxes and vocals
  • Orin Isaacs – electric bass
  • Wilson Laurencin – drums
  • Anthony Pierre – percussion
  • Darren Sheppard – steel drums
  • David Williams – keyboards

This original group stayed together until 1998, when Dave Williams left in the summer of that year, to tour with the Sony Canada act, “Esthero”. He was replaced on keyboards by Andrew Craig, who was just off two years of “Celtic Pop” on the road with Ashley MacIsaac.

Kalabash had started to work on an original repertoire in 1995 with the intent to record a CD. While the writing teams developed a range of material very quickly, and started recording at Orin’s studio under his Bassmint Productions umbrella, the final CD production did not come together until the Fall of 2000, with the band releasing its first CD in Spring 2001. In the meantime, Demo Cates had begun a 3 year stint with the Toronto production of Disney’s Broadway hit “The Lion King” and Orin Isaacs and Wilson Laurencin signed contracts with the “Open Mike Show”, Toronto’s most successful late night talk-show where Orin led the show’s quartet. Aware that Demo, Orin and Wilson would not be free to tour, and having great plans for the group after the CD was launched, we had incorporated Mark McLean (drums), Rich Brown (bass) and Colleen Allen (saxes/flute) on the recording, which ended off being a great collective effort between these new members and the founding members. Note that while Dave Williams did not record with us, he was the creative writing force on much of the original material on that inaugural CD.

Kalabash has since released its second CD, and the band continues to evolve and grow, working to reach a wider audience at world music festivals and jazz festivals in North America and across the globe.

[L – R] Tony, Demo, Wilson, Dave, Orin, Darren

Kalabash - Founding Members

[l-r] Tony, Demo, Wilson, Dave, Orin, Darren