Tag Archives: Tommy McCook

Brutal and beautiful on Tommy McCook’s The Sannic Sounds

DSRLP004Jamaican horn maestro and arranger Tommy McCook was one of the key architects behind ska, rocksteady and reggae. As part of the Skatalites at Studio One and The Supersonics at Treasure Isle he made some of greatest music ever made.

In the 70s he played on countless of roots records and also fronted a few of them. One of those – often rare items – was reissued today by Japanese acclaimed label Dub Store Records.

The Sannic Sounds is the title of the album. The title was advertised on the label of a 7″ release of Determination Skank as The Sannic Sounds of Tommy McCook. The album was then released in 1974 in very scarce quantities as Tommy McCook Dub. Three years after it was picked up by a UK label and was released – again in scarce quantities – as Horny Dub.

In 2003 parts of the album was reissued by Blood & Fire Records as part of the magnificent compilation Blazing Horns – Tenor in Roots. But now it’s widely available as a single album.

And it’s great. As always when it comes to Tommy McCook. He certainly knows how to blow a horn, whether it’s an evergreen like the beautiful When I Fall in Love or the brutally militant Dirty Harry.

Glen Brown was the producer behind this set. And some of his productions are some of the heaviest to be put on wax. Dirty Harry, and its version Determination Skank, is one such production.

The Sannic Sounds is a varied, and sometimes dub-infused, instrumental album that deserved to be reissued.

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Jah Bless’ militant swing

cover170x170Last year I interviewed Jah David, bass player and musical director in Zion High Productions as well as member of acclaimed production trio Zion I Kings. In the interview he mentioned he was working on an album from saxophone player Jah Bless. Now that set has arrived.

To state that the reggae market today is overflowed by instrumental sets would be a grand exaggeration. Vocal sets are the order of the day and dub albums are far more common than instrumental albums. It was however different in the 60s and 70s when instrumental reggae efforts were part of a label’s regular output.

I’m a huge fan of instrumental albums and was really looking forward to this new album from Jah Bless. He’s carrying the tradition forward and this is a set in the same tradition as the great instrumental sets from the likes of Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso.

Redemption is Jah Bless’ second album and it collects 14 sax-driven tasty and organic instrumentals, sometimes with a hint of funky jazz and sometimes accompanied with a dub workout on the mixing board. The riddims are steller and Jah Bless blows his horn with an elegant smoothness.

Expectations are always high on Zion I Kings and they always manage to deliver accordingly. Essential for fans of bright and stylish reggae instrumentals.

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Tommy McCook’s legacy lives on

316Reissue giants Pressure Sounds has recently put out another long lost gem – Tommy McCook’s instrumental set Reggae in Jazz, produced by noted producer Winston Riley’s brother Buster Riley and originally issued in scarce quantities on Eve Records back in 1976.

Ace saxophonist and arranger Tommy McCook was one of the original members of The Skatalites and during his long career he was instrumental in shaping the sound of ska, rocksteady and reggae. He supplied crisp horn lines for almost every premier producer in the 60s and 70s and founded The Supersonics as well as being a key member of bands such as The Aggrovators and The Revolutionaries.

On Reggae in Jazz his swinging and funky saxophone takes lead on a number of tracks, not every song though, since a few are organ and melodica lead. And don’t be fooled by the album title. The musical relationship with jazz is vague, or very vague. A more appropriate title would have been Reggae With Funk, since it’s funky to say the least.

The audio quality however leaves quite a lot to be desired, especially Bam Bam and Black Hat. The hi-hat sounds really terrible. Very unfortunate.

This is the second instrumental reggae album reissued by Pressure Sounds this year and hopefully this will start a trend, because instrumental reggae albums hasn’t been reissued to the same extent as, say, dub albums, which is a pity.

Reggae in Jazz comes with sleeve notes by noted reggae write Steve Barrow and is available on LP and CD. The latter carries two bonus tracks by The Mercenaries, one instrumental and one dub.

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The Skatalites mer än bara ska

skatalites_coxson_2nd_from_leftFå grupper har betytt mer för den jamaicanska musiken än 60-talsikonerna The Skatalites. Kvartetten Jackie Mittoo, Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso och framlidne Don Drummond satte på egen hand ska-musiken på kartan. Men The Skatalites är mer än stompig ska, det visar tre plattor från insomnade Motion Records.

Supergruppen The Skatalites har beskrivits som en institution snarare än ett band. De är en fulländad samling fantastiska musiker som både enskilt och gemensamt skapade odödliga klassiker som Guns of Navarone, Lawless Street och Eastern Standard Time.

Och det var just ju ska som satte gruppen på kartan. Det få vet är att The Skatalites spelat in några makalösa plattor omkring tio år efter att de gick skilda vägar 1965.

Runt mitten av 70-talet samlades nämligen stora delar av The Skatalites igen för att spela in basisten Lloyd Brevetts soloplatta African Roots.

Ungefär samtidigt träffades de även tillsammans med producenten Herman Chin Loy i hans Aquarius-studio. Resultatet blev instrumentalplattan The Legendary Skatalites som släpptes 1976. Men den här gången handlar det inte om ska, The Legendary Skatalites är roots ut i fingerspetsarna. Kanske något jazzigare än andra instrumentalplattor från samma period.

Plattan följdes av Herb Dub, Collie Dub med tunga dubversioner signerade King Tubby.

Fram till för ett par år sedan var de här plattorna endast för skivsamlare med plånböcker tjockare än Sverigesmotion_skatalites_heroes statsbudget. Men skivbolaget Motion har gjort världen en tjänst genom att ge ut plattorna The Legendary Skatalites in Dub, Herb Dub, Collie Dub och Heroes of Reggae on Dub.

The Skatalites var en samling av världens främsta musiker och det är nog ingen som någonsin skulle tvivla på att gruppen kunde spela mer än ska. Men fram till nu har det varit förhållandevis okänt att de kunde låta lika bra i dub- och roots-tappning.

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