This months update we spotlight the Ska instrumental group the Skatalites, who recorded some very memorable and remarkable Ska tunes in the mid sixties. The line up of the original members were :-
At the same time the West Indian community in England were playing Ska records which were either imported from Jamaica or purchased from local record shops, issued on UK. labels, such as Blue Beat, Melodisc, Island records
It is remarkable that during such a short period the Skatalites recorded so many tunes, when you consider that during the evenings most of the musicians played with other bands. When the band split in 1965 they became the Soul Brothers under the leadership of Roland Alphonso, later changing the name to the Soul Vendors, which also included Jackie Mittoo on organ. Tommy Mc Cook formed the Supersonics and joined Duke Reid at Treasure Isle.
Don Drummond made some very fine recordings including Man in the Street, Don Cosmic, Coolie Boy, Dragon Weapon and University Goes Ska. Roland Alphonso made many records under his own name such as Phoenix City, El Pussy Cat and James Bond. The sax player Tommy McCook also made many records under his own name including Yard Broom, Out of Space and Thunderball.
Rico Rodriquez played trombone on very early sessions with the Skatalites, before leaving JA for England, he went on to play for other record producers including Duke Reid, Vincent Chin and Prince Buster . He came to London in the late sixties and recorded for local producers in Brixton, recordings were issued on the Blue Cat label. At the start of the Reggae explosion he released several albums. He can be found on the CD Rico and the Rudies, Blow Your Horn & Brixton Cat Trojan 361. In 2007 he was awarded the MBE for services to music. Rico used to play fine trombone with the Jools Holland Rhythm and Blues Orchestra for several years .(he died on 4th September 2015) The orchestra can be seen at times on the Jools Holland television music show on BBC or see them on tour, they are a brilliant live act and perform some great Ska tunes "I'm in a dancing mood...
Finally, The Skatalites are still playing today, based in New York, with only one original members, Lester Sterling - AltoSax.
Skatalites and others can be heard on the Limited Edition 2 CD set Skamania/Skavooves Skatalites on Shanachie records 266.
The Skatalites at the Jazz Cafe, Camden Town London, 25 August 1999
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