Drumquestra (MCPR Music, 2009)
Jamaican master percussionist and sideman Larry McDonald has released one of the best percussion recordings in recent months. The remarkable Drumquestra is the the first solo record of McDonald’s four-decade career and it covers genres from Jamaica, such as mento, reggae and dub as well as other musical styles of the African diaspora and Africa, including soul, funk, West African, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian; as well as Indian konakkol. The rich palette of percussion instruments and vocals creates a vibrant and fascinating recording. The percussion instruments include marimba, drum kit, congas, bongos, funde drums and smaller had percussion, up to 20 different percussive instruments.
The Drumquestra includes some of the best instrumentalists in the Jamaican music scene as well as musicians from other musical traditions. McDonald formed the distinctive orchestra incorporating generations of Jamaican drummers: Sly Dunbar, Isaiah "Stickie" Thompson, Bongo Herman, Carl McCleod, Marjorie Whylie, Alvin Haughton and three drummers from the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, Royo Smith on bass, Simba Messado on repeater & Delroy “Putus” Williams on funde. "I wanted to take elements from everywhere, because all drums from Cuba, Africa or Brazil are family" Larry McDonald explains. "I knew that rhythms from many places could work together and make a whole different texture. I wanted to take Jamaican rhythms I was familiar with, like kumina and rasta and weave them together into something old but new."
The album’s vocalist includes well known artists such as reggae legend Toots Hibbert (Toots and The Maytals) along with Ras Tesfa, Shaza, Dollarman and dub poet Mutabaruka. "I’ve worked with poets and the voice since the 1970s when I had a four drummer band called Truth and worked with the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, " McDonald explains. "I always want to reinforce what the words are expressing without drawing attention to what I was doing. For ‘Drumquestra,’ I had to find my own way of expressing myself musically."
Larry McDonald has worked with Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Bad Brains, Gil Scott-Heron and many more renowned artists in his 40-year career. He is also a founding member of New York City-based bands The Rocksteady 7 and Dub Is A Weapon.
Drumquestra shows the power of percussion and how its wide-ranging sounds transcend time and place.