We found Othello Molineaux and Debbie Orta at Books & Books in Coral Gables. They each usually gig with a full band, so this duo in an intimate setting was a lovely change. Ana said, “ . . . I could listen to them all night and possibly into the next day . . . ” Above, we have Othello Molineaux on steel pan and Debbie Orta on vocals.
A Trinidad native who moved to Miami in 1971, Othello Molineaux emerged from a musical family. He took piano lessons from his mother, father played violin, sister was a vocalist, brother a jazz pianist. At 11, he started on steel pan. In 1976, Othello Molineaux burst onto the jazz scene after appearing on Jaco Pastorius’s Grammy-nominated debut album. He also worked with Herbie Hancock, Hubert Laws, Dizzy Gillespie, Pete Minger, Toots Thielmans, Monty Alexander, Art Blakey, Ira Sullivan, Peter Erskine, Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner, Randy Brecker, Bob Moses, Weather Report, Joe Zawinul, Bob Mintzer, Jack Dejohnette, Howard Johnson, Peter Gordon and J.J. Johnson. Othello’s 1993 album “It’s About Time” was voted best Jazz Album by the Miami New Times and declared a “Jazz Masterpiece” by “Jazz Times.” Read more at MySpace. His long list of recording credits can be found at Wikipedia.
The steel drum was invented in Trinidad and Tobago and is the national musical instrument. Othello was key in the successful campaign for the steel drum to be universally recognized and accepted.
Growin up, jazz vocalist Debbie Orta was influenced by greats such as Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, and Sarah Vaughan, yet her versatility led her to perform in various genres. Debbie’s professional life began with a record contract at TK Productions and a Southeast tour with her funk-rock band, Catalyst. After many US concerts, Debbie appeared in Miami venues with popular soft-rock group, Pepper. Debbie Orta has toured the world as a backup singer for Jose Luis Rodriguez (“El Puma”) and Chayanne. In 2007, she formed The Debbie Orta Jazz Group. Discover more at DebbieOrta.com.
Othello Molineaux’s honors include the 1991 Black Music Month’s Vanguard Award; inclusion in the Japanese Jazz Encyclopedia; nomination in 1979 and 1981 for Best Band in the Jazz Rock category of the Carbonell Music Awards; 10th Place in the International Music Poll – Miscellaneous Instrument category. Othello’s instructional book “Beginning Steel Drum,” published by Warner Bros., is used worldwide and is also being translated to Japanese.
Debbie performs at cultural events and festivals such as The Deering Estate, Suntrust Sunday Jazz Brunch and SunFest 2009 opening for Spyro Gyra. She is featured at clubs in South Florida with her group and often in a more intimate setting. She is now working on a CD for national release featuring original songs and jazz standards.