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Studio One Scorcher Vol.2 (SJRCD 143 - 2006)

The Skatalites - Dick Tracy
Soul Vendors - Frozen Soul
Vin Gordon - Joe Grazer
Pablove Black - Black Wax
Cedric Brooks - Father Forgive Him
Pablove Black - High Locks
Roland Alphonso - Nimble Foot Ska
Vin Gordon - Sidewalk Doctor
Sugar Belly - Cousin Joe Pt.1
Jackie Mittoo - A Big Car
Soul Defenders - Sound Almighty
Jackie Mittoo - After Christmas
Brentford All Stars - Race Track
Tommy McCook - Jamaican Bolero
Im And David - Black Is Black
Dub specialist - Gumbay Jump
The Skatalites, Soul Brothers, Soul Vendors, Soul Defenders, Sound Dimension, New Establishment, Brentford Road All Stars, Brentford Road Disco Set: during the sixties and seventies, the house bands of Studio One provided blueprints for each important development in Jamaican music, as well as innumerable keystone and classic recordings in each successive style. As The Skatalites were to Ska, so were the Soul Vendors to Rocksteady. As the decade turned, the Soul Defenders fleshed out the new Roots sound of the likes of Burning Spear and The Abyssinians; and The Brentford Road All Stars kept it all bubbling through the seventies.

This album lines up some of the killer instrumentals recorded at Studio One by these musicians and their friends.

Alongside The Skatalites frontline men Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso, this album also features some of the lesser-known but no less-glorious instrumentalists at Studio One. After all, the output of Studio One spans fifty years whereas The Skatalites only existed for fourteen months! Coxsone's musical tastes and connections were wide-ranging - from keeping up his association with Count Ossie and his African Drums over the years, to regularly recording material with Mento player - bamboo sax instrument maker Sugar Belly. And whilst everyone knows the name Jackie Mittoo - the resident keyboardist / arranger / genius at Studio One had stopped working day to day at the studio by 1968 when he left for Canada (returning to Jamaica on a regular basis), and the space was filled by the lesser-known names of Robbie Lynn, Richard Ace and in the 1970s Pablove Black.

Vin Gordon, AKA Don D (Drummond) Jnr, was born August 4, 1949 and grew up in Jones Town, Kingston. Like so many other great Jamaican musicians, Vin attended the Alpha Boys School where he received his musical education under such luminaries as Lennie Hibbert and Don Drummond. His first instrument was the string bass, which he later changed to trombone. In the mid-60s he joined the Salvation Army band in Montego Bay and he was later brought to Studio One by Roland Alphonso, another ex-Alpha student. His first recording as a session musician at the studio was for the Wailers when he was fifteen and his first solo was on 'Real Rock' by the Sound Dimension. From the mid-60s onwards Gordon played on hundreds of Rocksteady and early Reggae at Studio One earning the name Don D. Jnr (after the legendary Skatalite trombonist). In the 1970s Gordon continued to work for Clement Dodd as well as many other producers such as Harry Mudie, Harry J, Jack Ruby, Sonia Pottinger, Joe Gibbs and more and in 1973 recorded a rare album for another ex-Studio One artist, Lee Perry, called 'Musical Bones'. Here, he blows on Burning Spear's 'He Prayed' rhythm, also known as 'Joe Frazier' - the cut appeared originally as the flip of Dennis Alcapone's deejay version.

Paul Dixon, AKA Pablove Black, came to studio One in 1971, at the same time as the Soul Defenders (with Vin Morgan on drums and Earl 'Bagga' Walker on bass). In the previous decade he had played piano and steel drums for groups such as The Trinidadians federal All star steel Band and The Wanderers. For Sir Coxsone however, he became in-house melodica player and keyboard player (sometimes alternating with Jackie Mittoo on his return visits from Canada, when sides like 'Big Car' and 'After Christmas' were recorded). Coxsone Dodd issued an album of his instrumentals at Studio One - Mr Music - as well as a number of singles. Black is a member of The Twelve Tribes Of Israel, a mansion (or chapter) of Rastafarianism to which a number of Studio One artists aligned themselves - Bob Marley, Freddie McGregor, Dennis Brown. Founded in 1968 by Vernon Carrington, distinguished by their inclusiveness of all races and acceptance of the Holy Bible, Twelve Tribes of Israel is considered the largest of all Rastafari houses. Other mansions include Bobo Ashanti (Bobo Dreads) and Nyabinghi. Pablove Black currently works as a musician in Florida, USA. Alongside 'Black Wax' is 'High Locks', Pablove's melodica cut of Burning Spear's 'Foggy Road'.

Another luminary of the Alpha Boys School, Cedric Im Brooks studied clarinet alongside Don Drummond, Johnny Moore, Jo Jo Bennett and many other Reggae greats. After leaving Alpha in the early 1960s, Brooks switched to tenor and formed The Vagabonds as well as playing with Lynn Taitt and Jackie Mittoo in The Cavaliers and The Sheiks. The Vagabonds would later find fame when they came to the UK as Jimmy James and the Vagabonds. In 1965 Brooks left Jamaica to go to the Bahamas to play with the Carlos Malcolm group. He then moved on to Philadelphia, USA to study - where Hakim, a friend of his, was playing with the Sun Ra group. Brooks became interested in Ra's music and ideas and was in fact about to join the group just before returning to Jamaica in 1969 for the birth of his daughter. Here he started playing at Rennock Lodge rasta community in the hills with Count Ossie's drummers. Jazz musicians such as Johnny Moore, Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso often attended these sessions. This led to the two main aspects of Brooks' musical career - his association with Count Ossie and with Clement Dodd at Studio One. During the 1970s Brooks played on hundreds of sessions at Studio One as well as recording alongside trumpeter David Madden as "Im and David". In 1977, Clement Dodd released 'Flash Forward', an album of Brooks' instrumental work over many classic rhythms (such as 'Father Forgive Him', an instrumental cut of 'Declaration Of Rights'). At the start of the 1970s, along with Count Ossie, Brooks formed The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, a radical group that mixed Rastafarian Nyabinghi drumming with Sun Ra inspired Jazz and poetry. In the mid-70s Brooks left Count Ossie to form his own group. The Divine Light, and later Light Of Saba (recently re-issued on the Honest Jon's label), which continued to mix roots Jamaican music such as nyabinghi, kumina and mento with jazz and funk. Today Cedric Brooks continues to perform, often with the current version of The Skatalites. This album includes two Brooks instrumentals - 'Father Forgive Me' and Im and Dave's 'Black Is Black', based on the original US soul singer Syl Johnson's classic 'Is It Because I'm black'.

Oswald Williams, AKA Count Ossie, was born in Saint Thomas, Jamaica, in 1928. The single most important figure in bringing Rastafarian nyabinghi drumming to the outside world, Count Ossie studied and learnt these hand-drumming techniques as a boy taught by master burro drummer and rasta elder Brother Job. After a police raid in 1954 broke up the Pinnacle commune outside Kingston led by Leonard Howell, a number of Rastafarian camps, including Count Ossie's at Wareika Hill, set up in Kingston. Count Ossie brought nyabinghi drumming into the Grounation ceremonies as well as inviting like-minded jazz musicians such as Don Drummond, Tommy McCook and Johnny Moore (the frontline of the Skatalites) to play alongside them. In 1961 he recorded the Folke's Brothers famous 'Oh Carolina', a pivotal moment for reggae music. In the 1960s whilst continuing to live in the hills he occasionally played for producers such as Clement Dodd, Harry Mudie and Prince Buster. Clement Dodd remembers that Count Ossie and his African Drums would also sometimes play at a Downbeat dance at the height of the evening, playing between the American and Jamaican R'n'B and Ska music. Count Ossie's music was a precursor of roots reggae music (by at least ten years!) and enabled reggae music to look two ways for inspiration - to both the Black American music heard on the radio from New Orleans, Miami and Texas and to the music of Africa, representing the roots of Jamaicans.

Count Ossie's group during the 1960s was known variously as Count Ossie and the African Drums, Count Ossie and the Wareika's but in the 1970s he formed The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari alongside Cedric Brooks resulting in the groundbreaking 'Grounation' and 'Tales Of Mozambique' albums. Whilst Count Ossie sadly died in a car crash in 1976, The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari continue and have just released a new album on the Sound of World label. Count Ossie is featured here on the Dub Specialist version of 'Goombay Jump'.

William Walker, AKA Sugar Belly, is an instrumentalist that embodies Coxsone Dodd's interest in early Jamaican music, particularly mento. A self-taught musician. Sugar Belly had a very successful mento group in the 1950s, performing at established Kingston venues such as the Glass Bucket. He invented and made his own instrument, a bamboo sax, which became his trademark and first recorded n album of mento music for Dodd - called 'Linstead Market' - on the Port-O-Jam subsidiary label. And even though mento had begun to die out as a style, Sugar Belly continued to record at Studio One throughout the 1960s and 70s. The music he recorded was a mixture of mento, calypso and reggae but always played with his unique bamboo sax resulting in a catalogue of two albums and over fifteen singles. He later also recorded material for Sonia Pottinger and Winston Riley. Sugar Belly died in 1990.

Tommy McCook was born in Havana, Cuba on 27 March 1927. After his family moved to Jamaica, McCook from the age of eleven studied tenor sax and flute at Alpha for three years. After a stint with the Eric Deans Orchestra (aged 14) playing swing and jazz, he moved to Nassau, Bahamas in 1954 and did not return to Jamaica until 1962, in time for independence. He attended sessions for Clement Dodd with musicians who would comprise The Skatalites, the most important group in the formation of reggae music. Between June 64 and August 65, they played on hundreds of classic Studio One sides behind singers or out on their own. In 1965, following the incarceration of Don Drummond for stabbing his girlfriend Margarita, The Skatalites split up. Roland Alphonso and Jackie Mittoo formed the Soul Brothers, the new house band at Studio One and Tommy McCook formed The Supersonics, which similarly became the new house band at Duke Reid's Treasure Isle Studios from 1965-69. As The Skatalites had defined the earlier sound of Ska, The Supersonics Rocksteady rhythms kept Reid the number one rival to Sir Coxsone's throne throughout the latter half of the 1960s. In the 1970s McCook continued to record for Clement Dodd as well as working extensively as a freelancer for many producers such as Bunny Lee, Harry J, Jo Jo Hookim and Joe Gibbs, and was an integral part of in-house bands The Aggrovators, The Professionals and The Revolutionaries. In 1975, briefly, and then again in 1983, McCook reformed The Skatalites, moved to America and continued to regularly record and tour with the group until his death on May 4, 1998.

Roland Alphonso was similarly born in Havana, Cuba on January 12, 1931. He left for Jamaica aged 2 with his mother. He is one of the few notable Jamaican Jazz musicians not to have attended Alpha Boys School - instead going to Stony Hill Industrial School, Kingston where he learnt drums, trumpet and saxophone.

In 1948 he joined the Colony Club Orchestra led by Eric deans, soon moving on to play in a number of orchestras - Sonny Bradshaw, Val Bennett and Baba Motta. A childhood friend of Clement Dodd's, Alphonso first began playing on sessions for Coxsone as early as 1956 as a member of Cluett Johnson's 'Clue J And The Blues Blasters'. Although the first tapes were lost, Dodd continued to record the group at Ken Khouri's Federal Studios playing a Jamaican version of American R&B, or boogie-shuffle, and by 1958 had recorded Theo Beckford's classic 'Easy Snapping' (with Roland in the group). In the early 1960s Alphonso was also attending sessions for upcoming soundsystem operators trying to get into the record business - Duke Reid, Lloyd 'The Matador' Daley, King Edwards as well as playing for numerous groups - The Alley Cats, The City Slickers, Aubrey Adams and The Dew Droppers.

in 1963 Clement Dodd opened Studio One at 13 Brentford Road and Roland Alphonso joined the house band on a weekly wage and the following year The Skatalites were formed - Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook, Don Drummond, Jackie Mittoo, Johnny Moore, Lloyd Brevett, Lloyd Knibb. By august 1965 they had split and Roland had formed The Soul Brothers - along with Moore, Brevett, Mittoo, guitarist Wallin Cameron and drummer Bunny Williams - who immediately became the new house band at Brentford Road. In 1967, coinciding with a tour of the UK along with singers Ken Boothe and Alton Ellis (who had been lured away from Treasure Isle with the promise of the tour), the group was renamed The Soul Vendors.

In 1972 Roland Alphonso suffered a stroke and, unable to play the saxophone, moved to the US to recuperate. The following year Clement Dodd released Alphonso's first solo album, followed by another two years later. In 1983 Roland joined the reformed Skatalites and began to tour and play again. In 1986 he also recorded an album for the Wackies label in New York. Roland Alphonso died on 20 November 1998. 'Nimble Foot Ska' is a classic piece of vintage ska with Roland on deadly form leading The Skatalites into the ring.

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