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Soulful Sundays: Rolando Alphonso

Jamaican tenor saxophonist, Rolando Alphonso, was born on January 12, 1931 in Havana, Cuba.  He was brought to Jamaica by his mother when he was two years old.

Rolando Alphonso, photo from the Internet
Rolando Alphonso, photo from the Internet

In Jamaica, Alphonso learned to play the saxophone and worked as a studio musician, backing performers such as Jimmy Cliff, the Wailers, the Maytals and most of the other leading performers of the 1960s. Alphonso also worked for two of the most influential music producers in Jamaica – Duke Reid and Clement “Coxsone” Dodd. It was while working Dodd’s Studio One that he and fellow musicians, Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, Jackie Mittoo, and Jerome Hinds, among others, formed the ska band, The Skatalites. Ska was the new music at the time in Jamaica. The Skatalites disbanded a little more than a year after they formed and was re-formed in 1983. They continue to play.

Alphonso was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government in 1977.

He moved to the U.S. in 1980 and lived in Brooklyn. He died from an aneurysm in Los Angeles in 1998.

Here’s Alphonso on Jah Shakey and Guantanamera.