Mattapan’s “Sax-Man” Elan Trotman returns to his island roots

Elan TrotmanElan TrotmanJazz saxophonist Elan Trotman — who now calls Mattapan home when he is not touring— is returning to his roots with his latest album, “Tropicality.”

Trotman, 34, moved from his native Barbados to Boston when he was 17 years-old to attend Berklee College of Music, where he majored in music education.

The former Boston school teacher is now totally focused on his own career, which is quickly building steam both in the US and abroad.

Trotman’s fourth solo album, “Love and Sax,” hit number 20 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Albums chart in June 2011. His single “Heaven in Your Eyes” climbed to #11 on the Smooth Jazz Songs chart, and his follow-up, a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “As”, landed at #16 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Radio chart.

With the success of “Love and Sax,” Trotman decided to take a different approach to his next album.

“The last album was more mainstream, smooth jazz,” Trotman said. “This album is more geared to my roots, and I wanted to pay tribute to the music I listened to in Barbados.”

Trotman collaborated with producers from Barbados, and recorded part of the aptly titled “Tropicality” on the island and part of it in Los Angeles.

“It’s got a very tropical vibe to it, a lot of reggae, some originals, and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Master Blaster’,” Trotman said. “I think it will definitely give me a chance to showcase my roots and where I came from and how this music has influenced me.”

“Tropicality” will be released February 19, but Trotman is heading back to Barbados for the album release on Jan. 20. He will also be holding a CD release show at Scullers on Feb. 21 and at Spaghettini in Seal Beach, CA on March 1.

Trotman’s introduction to music began early in life. He started taking piano lessons when he was about 8 years old, but switched to the saxophone a couple of years later.

“There were a lot of different things that drew me to it,” Trotman said. “It’s always been an appealing instrument to me. I tried some brass instruments first, but I didn’t think they were a good fit for me.”

Trotman said he knew people who had received the scholarship in the past and also knew Berklee graduates that helped him prepare for the application process.

Trotman said that while he was influenced by Grover Washington Jr., Najee and Kenny G – all of whom he had seen perform at the Barbados Jazz Festival when he was a teenager – at Berklee, he had better resources and was able to be exposed to more traditional jazz musicians like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. His mentor, fellow Barbadian Arturo Tappin, who graduated from Berklee in the ‘80s, also influenced Trotman.

In addition to his academic training, Trotman began honing his skills outside of the classroom and began working toward a solo music career.
“I started picking up local gigs at places like Bob the Chef’s and Slade’s,” Trotman said.

Shortly afterward, he began teaching at Boston Public Schools and worked in the system for almost 10 years, but he was drawn back to music.

“About two years ago, I decided to take some time off from teaching to really focus on my playing career,” Trotman said. “And for the last two years I’ve been recording more and traveling and honing myself as a jazz artist.”

Even with his burgeoning success, Trotman has no intention of leaving Boston for a bigger city just yet.

“I don’t have any immediate plans to move. I’ve been able to stay here and stay working,” Trotman said. “If I get more opportunities, that might influence my decision to move out to Los Angeles, but for now I can be based in Boston and still have a successful career.”