Soulful Sundays: Don Drummond

Ska trombonist and composer, Don Drummond, was one of the original members of the Jamaican Ska band, The Skatalites. He was educated at Alpha Boys School where he also taught. Drummond began his musical career with the Eric Dean’s All-Stars.

A household name in Jamaica in the 60s, pianist George Shearing rated him one of the world’s top five

Don Drummond, image from Wikipedia
Don Drummond, image from Wikipedia

trombone players. By 1965, Drummond had over 200 songs to his credit.

He suffered mental problems and in 1965, was convicted of killing Marguerita Mahfood, his longtime girlfriend, and confined to Kingston’s Bellevue Hospital, a mental institution.

In 1967, his adaptation of The Guns of Navarone hit the UK Top 10.

Drummond died in May, 1969, four years after being sent to Bellevue. He was just 37 years old.

Here are Man in the Street, which reached the Top 10 in the UK in 1965, and Jungle Reggae.

A Jamaican Christmas – Reggae Carols, 2

Most of the Christmas carols we learned over the years mention things like snow, mistletoe, stockings, chimneys, etc., that we don’t see here in Jamaica. So after years of singing these songs, several performers began Jamaicanizing the carols, adding a reggae beat and substituting items that local people could relate to.

Here now are a few more reggae carols, by John Holt, The Tamlins and Toots & The Maytals.

Holly, maynefoto
Holly, maynefoto

The Tamlins – Carlton Smith, Derrick Lara and Junior Moore – began as a nightclub act in 1970. By 1972, they had won the Most Outstanding Group award. They’ve recorded a string of hits and backed up performers such as Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, John Holt and others. Here’s their song, This Christmas.

Singer/songwriter, John Holt, was the lead singer for the rocksteady band, The Paragons. He wrote the hit song, The Tide is High, made famous by Blondie. Take a listen to Happy Xmas.

Well-known ska and reggae group, Toots & The Maytals, also marked the season with Happy Christmas.

Hope these carols will have you singing along or shaking your feet as you bake your cookies, wrap gifts or decorate the house.

Happy Holidays!

A Jamaican Christmas – Reggae Carols

Christmas in Jamaica wouldn’t be the same without our spin on traditional carols. Here are two versions of The Christmas Song. The first by one of my favorite performers, JC Lodge, The Christmas Song, the second by Beres Hammond, The Christmas Song. JC Jamaicanized the lyrics a bit.

Beres Hammond, image from the Internet via
Beres Hammond, image from the Internet via

Hope these will help put you in the mood for a little Reggae Christmas. Happy Holidays!

Soulful Sundays: Cesaria Evora – RIP

Cape Verdian singer, Cesária Évora, died on Saturday, December 17th in Baptista de Sousa Hospital in Mindelo, on her native island of Sao Vicente. She was 70 years old.

Cesaria Evora, photo from the Internet
Cesaria Evora, photo from the Internet

Évora was featured on Soulful Sundays in April. Take a listen to Petit Pays.

Soulful Sundays: Millie Small

Before Millie Small was catapulted to fame in 1964 with the hit song, My Boy Lollipop, she had been part of a duo in Jamaica that had some minor success.

Millie Small
Millie Small

She went to London in 1963 to record My Boy Lollipop, the song that put both her and Island Record on the map internationally. My Boy Lollipop reached number on the UK and US charts and was the first hit song for the Chris Blackwell’s fledgling label. It was only recently in an interview with Blackwell at the New York Public Library, that I learned that the song had been released originally in the US by Barbie Gaye.

Small’s hit was recorded in the bluebeat style, the genre of Jamaican music that predates ska and reggae.

Although she continued to tour into the 1970s, Small never had another hit on the order of My Boy Lollipop.

In August this year, the Governor-General conferred on her the Order of Distinction for her contribution to Jamaican music.

Millie Small or Little Millie Small as she was called back then, was born Millicent Dolly May Small on October 6, 1946 in Clarendon, Jamaica. She resides in the U.K.

Please take a listen to My Boy Lollipop.

Soulful Sundays: Desmond Dekker

As I write about Desmond Dekker, a Gregory Isaacs song (Love is Overdue) is coming to me from across the way. I’m thrilled to see that the music popularized by artists such as Dekker, Isaacs, Marley, Dennis Brown, etc., is holding its own against dancehall.

Desmond Dekker
Desmond Dekker, photo from the Internet

Desmond Dekker and his backup band, the Aces, won the Jamaica Festival Song Competition in 1968 with Music Like Dirt and had a string of hits that year, including A It Mek and Poor Mi Israelite. Israelite topped the charts in the UK and made Dekker the first Jamaican artist to have a UK hit. The success of Israelite paved the way for other Jamaican artists who made up the ska/reggae “invasion” of the UK that went on to influence punk music there.

Dekker was born Desmond Dacres in St. Andrew on July 16, 1945. He died in the UK on May 25, 2006. Please listen to Poor Mi Israelite and another hit, 007 Shanty Town.

Soulful Sundays – Regina Carter

Jazz violinist and MacArthur Fellow Regina Carter began taking piano lessons at age two after playing by air a melody for her brother’s piano teacher. At four, she was enrolled at the Detroit Community Music School. She played with Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Youth Division, took master classes with Itzak Perlman and Yehudi Menuhin.

Carter began studying classical violin at New England Conservatory of Music, then switched to jazz and Oakland University in Michigan as the Conservatory did not have a jazz program.

Regina Carter, photo
Regina Carter, photo stitoday

She’s played with Straight Ahead, accompanied Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Billy Joel, Mary J. Blige and Dolly Parton, played with Max Roach and toured with Wynton Marsalis. Currently, she performs as the head of a quintet. Carter, who was born in Detroit on August 6, 1966 is the cousin of jazz saxophonist, James Carter. She has 7 solo CDs to her credit.

Here’s Carter’s Pavane from her CD, Paganini: After a Dream. If you like what you hear, go here for a free download of Artistiya from her latest album, Reverse Thread.


11 Places to Listen to Live Music in New York City

Music symbol from the InternetAs I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m helping my blog buddy Tony plan his latest trip to New York City in the fall. Since Tony’s a music lover, I know he’d want to check out some live performances while he’s in the city. The Lower East Side is a great place for him to start.

Here are a few places Tony can go. Unfortunately, he’ll have to leave his kids with a sitter as patrons have to be 21 and over to attend.

  • Café Wha, 115 MacDougal Street, 212-254-3706 – a New York hotspot since the 1950s. At Café Wha, you can expect to hear all kinds of music, from Reggae, R&B, Classic, Brazilian, Rock.
  • Fat Baby, 112 Rivington Street 212-533-1883 – Two floors, live bands
  • Fat Cat, 75 Christopher Street, 212-675-6056 – Live music nightly
  • Kenny’s Castaways, 157 Bleecker Street, has been a fixture on the New York music scene since the 1960s.
  • The Mercury Lounge, 217 E Houston Street 212-477-4155 (in NYC, Houston Street is pronounced Howston)
  • Pianos, 158 Ludlow Street, 212-505-3733
  • The Bitter End, 149 Bleecker Street, 212-673-7030 – Since 1960, one of the oldest rock clubs in New York City.
  • The Delancey, 168 Delancey Street, 212-675-9920 – Funk, R&B, Soul, Jazz
  • The Living Room, 154 Ludlow Street, 212-533-7235 – Best NYC club for singer/songwriters.
  • SOB’s, short for Sounds of Brazil, 204 Varick Street, 212-243-4940 – International music.
  • Zinc Bar, 82 West 3rd Street, 212-477-9462 – Jazz, Rock, World Music


Soulful Sundays – Al Jarreau

The friends I made while I was at university are still friends today. Back then, we shared each little discovery: music, foods, movies, books, etc. It was one of these friends who introduced me to Al Jarreau.

In time, all of us were listening to, talking about his music and following him in the media.

Jarreau, a seven-time Grammy Award winner, was born Alwin Jarreau in 1940 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition to being a preacher, his father was a singer, his mother a piano teacher. The family sang together at church concerts and Jarreau performed with his mother at PTA meetings.

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Soulful Sundays – Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington

Born on April 29, 1899 in Washington, D.C., Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was a musician, bandleader and a prolific composer who has more than a thousand compositions to his credit.

His parents, James Edward and Daisy Kennedy Ellington, both pianists, nurtured his artistic abilities. Duke, who got his name from one of his friends, began taking piano lessons at age seven. In high school, he studied art and was awarded a scholarship to the Pratt Institute but turned it down.

Influenced by ragtime musicians, Duke began performing professionally at age 17. In 1923, he moved to New York City where he began playing in clubs. From 1927-32 and 1937-8, he played at Harlem’s Cotton Club.

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