Mittoo - The Keyboard King At Studio One (USCD 8 - 2000)
Get Up And Get It
Henry The Great
Darker Shade Of Black
|Born in 1948 in Kingston, Jamaica, Jackie Mittoo was
a truly gifted pianist who by the age of 14 had already started to play
music professionally with his own bands The Sheiks and The Rivals when
he first met with Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd, owner of Studio One records.
Coxsone invited him to play piano on a Studio One session and Jackie Mittoo was soon doing sessions on a regular basis. Shortly after this, a
number of the regular session musicians decided to form their own group,
and The Skatalites were born.
Jackie Mittoo was a founding member of The Skatalites, one of the most important groups in the history of Reggae. They invented Ska, the first musical style to emerge from the newly Independent island of Jamaica. Jackie Mittoo was fifteen when the Skatalites began.
The Skatalites were Lloyd Brevett (bass), Lloyd Knibbs (drums), Don Drummond (trombone), Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso and Lester Stirling (sax), Johnny Moore (trumpet), Jah Jerry (guitar) and Jackie Mittoo (piano).
In a period of less than two years between 1964-1965 The Skatalites were the band in Jamaica, recording many classic sessions for Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd at Studio One as well as recording for other producers such as Duke Reid (for his Treasure Isle label) and Justin and Philip Yap (Top Deck).
As well as their own, mainly instrumental, releases The Skatalites were the backing musicians to many singers recording at that time.
In 1965, the Skatalites disbanded and Jackie Mittoo, along with Roland Alphonso went on to form The Soul Brothers who would record under their own name as well as becoming the in-house band at Studio One.
Jackie Mittoo became, at this point, the musical arranger/producer of practically every Studio One recording made at Brentford Road studio for a three year period (1965-1968).
In 1966, Rocksteady arrived and Jackie Mittoo had his first solo hit 'Ram Jam'. This soon led to Studio One releasing a string of LPs of Jackie Mittoo as a solo artist (Now, Macka Fat, Evening Time, In London, Reggae Matic and Keep On Dancing) as well as numerous singles. It also led to Jackie touring England in 1967 with his band renamed The Soul Vendors.
As leader of the in-house studio bands variously known as The Soul Brothers, The Soul Vendors and The Sound dimension, Jackie Mittoo would play, write and arrange tunes for numerous singers at Studio One such as Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis, Marcia Griffiths, Delroy Wilson and The Heptones.
It is from this period that many of the tracks on this compilation are taken. Whilst the Skatalites had heralded the arrival of Ska this period begins with Rocksteady and ends with the arrival of Reggae. Not only was Jackie Mittoo a major part of these first three musical movements he was also the funkiest keyboardist that Jamaica has ever produced!
In this same period, in the USA, artists such as Booker T & The MGs were doing a similar thing: recording in their own right as well as being the house band at the Stax label.
Jimmy Smith was making the Hammond organ an acceptable Jazz instrument and leading the way for many more Soul-Jazz artists such as Reuben Wilson and Groove Holmes in the late sixties.
Indeed, as the sixties moved on many Jazz musicians moved into a style of music that mixed the two styles of Jazz and R&B as they came under the influence of Motown, Stax and Soul music. Artists such as Horace Silver, Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Hubbard, Duke Pearson all adopted the new Soul-Jazz style.
This was nothing new to Jamaican musicians. Most of the Skatalites had come out of the Alpha Boys School where they were taught to play Jazz from an early age. This group were indeed by far the best Jazz musicians in Jamaica.
From the start, The Skatalites were playing Jazz, Soul, Pop, music from films, all in their own style. From Guns Of Navarone to Christine Keiller the points of reference for these musicians was wider than most of their US counterparts. An approach that Jackie Mittoo would continue throughout his career.
New Orleans music had always been an important source of inspiration in Jamaica. American radio stations in Miami and New Orleans could be picked up in Kingston. By the mid-sixties Funk had arrived in the US. The Meters, one of the most influential Funk groups ever were starting to make music in New Orleans. With electric keyboards, bass, drums, guitar and syncopated rhythms that derived from the backline drums of the New Orleans Funeral marches.
Jackie Mittoo's music stands next to all these American artists, earning him a place in the history of Funk, Jazz and Soul as much as Reggae.
By late 1967/early 19868 Rocksteady was about to be replaced by Reggae, a slower, more roots based music. As Reggae arrived at Studio One, Jackie Mittoo, once again led the house band. Known collectively as The Sound Dimension it featured musicians such as Leroy Sibbles (bass), Roland Alphonso and Cedric brooks (saxophone), Eric Frater and Earnest Ranglin (guitar) and Bunny Williams (drums). The band continued to back singers such as The Heptones, John Holt, Horace Andy and Alton Ellis as well as releasing material as The Sound Dimension or Jackie Mittoo and The Sound Dimension.
At the end of 1968 Jackie Mittoo emigrated to Toronto, Canada. He continued to return to Jamaica during the seventies and maintained a close relationship with Clement Dodd, recording for Studio One as well as recording for other producers such as Bunny Lee (in both England and Jamaica) and Sugar Minnot. In Canada he also carried on recording and releasing music on his own label.
Even though Jackie Mittoo had left for Canada in the late sixties, two new trends in Jamaican music in the seventies, DJ and Dancehall, made it seem as if he had never left. Both styles involved rapping/singing over old instrumental backing tracks (rhythms), many of which came from Studio One recordings of the sixties. Hence many of Jackie Mittoo's songs were kept alive and indeed kept evolving by DJs and singers such as Prince Jazzbo, Michigan & Smiley, Lone Ranger and Freddie McGregor.
In 1982 Jackie Mittoo returned to make one more album for Studio One (Showcase). In response to the fact that so many people continued to version his music, he made an album where he versioned himself! Featuring fellow keyboard player Pablove Black alongside Earnest Ranglin (guitar), Bagga Walker (bass) and Horsemouth Wallace (drums) the album features new versions of Studio One classics as well as new compositions. Wall Street and Oboe on this compilation are from this classic session.
In the 1980s, until his death from cancer in 1990 age 42, Jackie Mittoo continued to live and work in Toronto travelling abroad to work with various producers such as Sugar Minnot in Jamaica and Wackies in New York. in 1989 the Skatalites reformed to support Bunny Wailer on tour. For a short while before his illness took hold Jackie Mittoo was once again playing with his original friends and musicians.
So, here we proudly present Jackie Mittoo, the Keyboard King at Studio One.
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