The Heptones are one of reggae’s legendary groups, led by the charismatic Leroy Sibbles along with Earl Morgan and Barry Llewellyn. They became huge hitmakers while at the top Jamaican label, Studio One. After recording numerous rock steady anthems, they were also one of the few groups to make a successful transition from rock steady to reggae.
Deep in the Roots, released in 2004 was recorded at Kingston’s famed Channel One Studio by top roots producer Niney the Observer, with backing by the Soul Syndicate band. Features previously-unreleased extended mixes, plus rare tracks.
Co-founder Barry Llewellyn died on November 23, 2011, in Kingston, Jamaica.
The Heptones (Studio One, 1967) On Top (Studio One, 1968) Black is Black (Studio One, 1970) Freedom Line (Studio One, 1971) Book of Rules (Jaywax, 1973) Cool Rasta (Trojan Records, 1976) Night Food (Island Records, 1976) Party Time (Island Records, 977) Better Days (Third World, 1978) Good Life ( Greensleeves Records, 1979) King Of My Town (Jackal Records, 1979) Mr. Skabeana (Cha Cha Music, 1980) One Step Ahead (Sonic Sounds, 1981) On The Run (Shanachie, 1982) Back on Top (Vista Sounds, 1983) In A Dancehall Style (Vista Sounds, 1983) Swing Low (Burning Sounds, 1985) Changing Times (Moving Target, 1986) A Place Called Love (Moving Target, 1987) Sing Good Vibes (1988) Mr. “T” (1991) Observer’s Style (1994) Pressure! (Real Authentic Sound, 1995) Rebel Love (2016)
Ansel Cridland, Danny Clarke and Winston Watson collectively known as The Meditations, recorded their first hit single “Woman is Like a Shadow” in 1974 at Channel One Recording Studio; followed by “Tricked”, “Babylon Trap Them”, “Woman Plabba” and “Running from Jamaica” which were included on their first album Message from the Meditations produced by Dobby Dobson.
Among other album were Wake Up, Guidance, No More Friend, For The Good of Man, The Return of The Meditations and Ghetto Knowledge. The group’s vocal and harmony style captured the hearts of reggae fans around the world and led to the collaboration of work with Lee “Scratch” Perry. Scratch, who produced for Bob Marley and the Wailers, asked them to do back up vocals for “Punky Reggae Party”, featuring Bob on lead vocals.
Bob Marley was so pleased with their harmony that he went in search for the group to do more back up vocals for him. He found Danny Clarke, one of the group’s member, and put him in a taxicab and said, “Me nuh wan you (don’t) come back ‘til you find the other two member”. The taxi driver drove Danny to all the studios in Kingston and could not find the other members, until they drove to “Idlers Rest”, a street where all musicians and singers mostly hang out.
When Danny saw Ansel and gave him the news that Bob Marley wanted the group to do back up vocals for him, Ansel thought it was a joke. Still, he and Winston joined Danny in the taxi, which took them to the studio where they added their vocals to “Rastaman Live Up” and “Blackman Redemption”.
The Meditations did back up vocals on songs for other artists like, Jimmy Cliff’s hit “Bongoman”, “Youths” Them A Cry”; Gregory Isaacs’ “Mr. Cop” and several songs with Junior Marvin and other reggae artists.
Message From The Meditations (Wild Flower, 1977)
Wake Up (Double-D, 1978)
Guidance (Tad’s/Guidance, 1979) No More Friend (Greensleeves, 1983)
For The Good of Man (Greensleeves, 1988)
Return of The Meditations (Sonic Sounds/Heartbeat, 1993)
Ghetto Knowledge (Easy Star, 1999) I Love Jah (Wackies, 2002) Stand In Love (2Good , 2004)
Jah Always Find a Way (2015)
Bridging the gap between Ska and Reggae, the soulful Rocksteady style dominated the Jamaican music scene for more than a decade. Formed in 1965 by Tony Brevett, Brent Dow and Trevor McNaughton, The Melodians was one of the premiere Rocksteady groups recording with legendary producers Clement “Coxsone Dodd, Arthur “Duke” Reid, and Leslie Kong with later releases on the Channel One and Studio One labels. Their hit “Rivers of Babylon” went on to become one of Jamaica’s most beloved songs.
The Melodians have continued to record quality reggae and rocksteady and tour internationally. On January 28, 2006, Brent Dow died of a heart attack at the age of 59. The Melodians are busy completing an album that they were in the process of recording at the time of his death and have been touring extensively in honor of Brent.
In 1973, a teenaged guitarist, cellist, and singer named Stephen ‘Cat’ Coore, then with the Inner Band left the safety of the ‘Circle’ to pursue his dream to write and perform original material incorporating reggae, rock and funk, and a desire to tour and take music to a wider audience. Thus Third World was conceived. Third World is committed to the excellence of reggae music by combining Jamaican Reggae and Folk Music with all strains of African Rhythms, American Pop, Rhythm and Blues, Rap and even Classical Music. Third World is one of the longest running and most diverse bands Jamaica has ever produced.
Their Kingston premier in 1974 where they played reggae and funk, earned the group great reviews and gigs, as they were the only group comprised of young talented, trained instrumentalists who could sing and would take chances on musical grounds others feared to tread. A few months later they were opening for the Jackson Five at the Jamaican National Stadium, where they stunned the 30,000 plus audience with their versatility and professionalism. Before long, they were playing in England where Island Records? Chris Blackwell saw them perform. Blackwell immediately offered them a record deal and a slot on a European tour, opening for one of his artists ? Bob Marley and the Wailers.
“Third World,” their debut album in 1976, featured the hypnotic “Satta Amasa Gana.” It was closely followed in 1977 by the legendary album, 96 In The Shade ? released to rave reviews in Europe and the U.K. including open salutes to Ras Tafari like “Jah Glory,” Bunny Wailer’s “Dreamland,” and of course, the classic title track, “1865 ( 96 In The Shade). This album also heralded the arrival of new drummer, Willie Stewart and of soulful new lead singer, William ?Bunny Rugs? Clark (another ex-Inner Circle member). This combination of “Rugs,” “Richie,” ?Cat,? ?Carrot,? ?Willie,? and ?Ibo? proved to be the formula for success as their next album Journey to Addis (1978), spawned the worldwide Top Ten hit ?Now That We Found Love? (a disco-Reggae remake of an O’Jays tune).
At the dawn of a new decade, Third World released not one but two new projects: their final album with Island, Arise In Harmony and also music on the Island soundtrack for the film, Prisoner in the Street. But with this dawning swiftly came the shattering closure to the most important chapter in the history of reggae music ? the passing of Bob Marley. This closure was marked by two events in particular. The release of Stevie Wonder’s tribute to Marley, “Master Blaster (Jammin’);” and the salute to Bob by Third World at Reggae Sunsplash that summer, during which Wonder joined Third World onstage to perform “Master Blaster.” The magic that filled the air that early summer morning was harnessed by Wonder who quickly wrote, produced and arranged Third World’s next international blockbuster, released in 1982, “Try Jah Love.” This song became the group’s anthem, solidifying them in the archives of musical history as the promoters of love and spirituality.
To commemorate more than 30 years together Third World launched their annual Third World and Friends concert on the lawns of Kings House in Kingston, Jamaica in 2004. The concert is held every year on December 27. Third World and friends features many of Jamaica’s greatest musicians such as Gregory Isaacs, Tony Rebel, Damian Marley, Richie Stevens, Beres Hammond, Cocoa Tea, Sly & Robbie and many more.
Third World has released over 20 albums as well as solo projects from lead singer Bunny Rugs and Guitarist Cat Coore.
Third World (Island, 1976) 96° in the Shade (Island, 1977) Journey to Addis (Island, 1978)
The Story’s Been Told (Island, 1979) Arise in Harmony (Island, 1980)
Rock the World (CBS, 1981) You’ve Got the Power (Columbia, 1982)
All the Way Strong (CBS, 1983)
Sense of Purpose (CBS, 1985)
Hold on to Love (Columbia, 1987)
Serious Business (Mercury, 1989)
Rock the World (Columbia, 1990)
Committed (Mercury, 1992)
Live It Up (Bud Music, 1995)
Generation Coming (Déclic Communication, 1999)
The Story’s Been Told (Island, 1999)
Ain’t Givin’ Up (Shanachie, 2003)
Riddim Haffa Rule (Music Avenue, 2004)
Black Gold Green (Nocturne, 2006)
Patriots (Third World Music Group, 2010) Under the Magic Sun (Cleopatra, 2014)
David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley was born October 17, 1968, in Kingston, Jamaica. He learned how to play guitar and drums from his father, Bob Marley, the legendary reggae singer. His mother Rita called and baptized him David. There are two versions of how he became to be known as Ziggy. One version claims that his father Bob Marley nicknamed him “Ziggy” in reference to a big spliff (a Jamaican word for a rolled cigarette with marihuana). Another version is that he was nicknamed Ziggy in reference to British singer David Bowie and his 1972 album, The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust .
In 1979, Ziggy and his siblings, Cedella, Stephen and Sharon, made their recording debut with their father, “Children Playing in the Streets”. The Melody Makers, as the group came to be known blended blues, R&B, hip-hop and roots reggae. They played occasionally for several years, including at their father’s funeral in 1981. Their debut LP was Play the Game Right, which was a very pop-oriented album, earned Ziggy some derision from critics. After their first two albums, Play the Game Right (1985) and Hey World! (1986), The Melody Makers earned their first Grammy (Best Reggae Recording) for Conscious Party (1988), an album produced by Talking Heads Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth which included the hit songs “Tomorrow People” and “Tumbling Down.”
Subsequent albums included the Grammy-winning One Bright Day (1989), Jahmekya (1991), Joy and Blues (1993), Free Like We Want 2 B (1995), their third Grammy winner Fallen Is Babylon (1997), The Spirit of Music (1999) and Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers Live, Vol. 1 (2000), which featured some of their biggest hits as well as a cover of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved.” While selling records by the millions and selling out countless concerts with the Melody Makers, including a recent European tour, Ziggy Marley has never lost sight of his foundation of faith, fellowship and family.
After two decades as the driving creative force behind The Melody Makers, Ziggy Marley stepped out on his own with his first solo album. Dragonfly was released on April 15th (2003) by Private Music.
Never content to rehash the success of his past, Ziggy used Dragonfly to explore new ground and create his own distinctive musical identity as a solo artist. “Working on my own gave me a chance to take my time and experiment a lot,” said Ziggy. “It took one year to finish this record ” it’s the longest I’ve ever worked on one album. It”s different when you’re on your own. At some point it”s scary, and then at another it’s a drive that makes you focus more.”
Ziggy also felt it was time for a change of scene. He wrote the album’s songs in Jamaica but recorded them in Miami and Los Angeles. “As an artist I need to experience different things, to see the world and have different energies. It helps me grow as a person to be outside my element.”
Ziggy provided his voice for the Rasta jellyfish that appears in the 2004 animated film Shark Tale. He also collaborated with Sean Paul on a cover of his father’s song “Three Little Birds” for the soundtrack.
Ziggy also sang the theme song for the popular PBS children’s show “Arthur”. In addition to his work in 2004 he also decided to marry a VP at William Morris Agency, with whom he has a daughter.
In 2006 he released Love Is My Religion. In November 2007, Ziggy Marley announced the re-release of his Grammy-winning album Love Is My Religion, including three bonus tracks as well as an independent distribution deal. In a bold move, Marley eschewed the traditional record industry formula and big name labels, instead penning a distribution deal between Tuff Gong Worldwide and Ryko Distribution.
Love Is My Religion was originally released in the US exclusively at Target Stores and was re-released in 2007 with additional material including live recordings of Jammin, Dragonfly, and Look Who’s Dancin’. These live tracks were recorded at Los Angeles’ Avalon during the 2006 Love Is My Religion world tour.
In addition to his skills as a singer, songwriter and producer, Ziggy founded U.R.G.E. (Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment), a non-profit organization that benefits a wide range of charitable children’s causes in Jamaica, Ethiopia and other developing nations. More recently, he has lent his support to the Youth AIDS campaign.
Toots Hibbert was born in May Pen in the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica. He was the youngest of seven children and began singing in the church choir at the age of seven. He left home in his teens to go to Kingston where he met Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias and formed the original Maytals in 1962. They were also sometimes recorded as the Vikings.
Toots Hibbert have helped to chart the course of Jamaican music with unrivaled delivery and dynamism, setting new standards of excellence, and becoming the most enduring of all Jamaica’s groups. The Maytals began their career at Studio One, the headquarters of Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, in Kingston Jamaica. The group’s debut release, Hallelujah, was an immediate hit throughout the island, and featured a mix of Jamaican rhythms and gospel vocal influence that would mark much of the Maytals music. Further successes followed, including I’ll Never Grow Old and Just Got To Be Me, each one building a reputation for the Maytals and their energetic straight-from-church style of singing and their ‘spiritual’ ska beat.
In 1966, the Maytals began to work with Byron Lee and the Drangonaires and won the first Jamaican Festival Song Competition with the song Bam Bam. The group returned with a vengeance in 1968, recording with famed producer Leslie Khong. Although these years of post-independence marked a more violent era of Jamaica’s history, Toots and the Maytals were far closer to soul and gospel influences than many of the ‘revolutionary’ young artists of the late 60’s. Nevertheless, the Maytals first single in two years, 54-56 (That’s My Number), combined the story of Toots’ arrest with a powerful downbeat to create downbeat to one of the greatest rock steady/reggae singles of all time.
In 1975, Toots and the Maytals signed a worldwide recording contract with Island Records. The following year the group hit the British singles charts with Reggae Got Soul, the title track to their new album. They also toured America, Europe and Britain. The album was a superb showcase for Toots’ soulful vocals embellished by fine musicianship form a cosmopolitan studio band the talent of Steve Winwood, Eddie Quansah, Dudu Pulwana, Rico Rodriquez and Tommy McCook.
On September 29, 1980, the group made history when they played at London’s Hammersmith Palais. Less than 24 hours later, a live album from that show was on sale in record stores throughout Britain. It was the fastest live album in recording history. After disbanding the Maytals in the early 1980s, Toots began recording with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. The combination produced Spiritual Healing ‘ a chart topper around the world, even reaching number one in South Africa.
Toots reformed the Maytals and picked up the touring pace again in the early 90s. The group released Recoup (1997), and the Grammy-nominated Ska Father (1998). Toots and the Maytals have been nominated three times for Grammy Awards ‘ the other nominations were for Toots in Memphis and Live. The Maytals also holds record for the largest number of number one his in Jamaica, with 31 to their credit.
The 2002 release, World Is Turning, on Toots’ own D&F label, was the first album of all new material to be released in two decades, and features refreshing originals with a wide variety of styles and influences, including rock-steady, reggae root, funky R&B, rave disco, and gospel. The 2004 Grammy-winning album, True Love, revisited some of the band’s most classic works with collaboration with No Doubt, The Roots, Bootsy Collins, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, Shaggy and Rahzel, and others.
On Light Your Light (2007), Toots and the Maytals returned to their roots, singing classics as well as new pieces. The overall feel of the album is very bluesy, with excellent electric and acoustic guitar work, combining roots reggae, blues, R&B, ska, Gospel and rock.
Indeed Toots and the Maytals artistry spans every phase of Jamaican music’s evolution, earning him the reputation as one of Jamaica’s most consistent and inspired performers, and one of the greatest reggae/R&B singers of all time.
Never Grow Old (1964)
The Sensational Maytals (1965)
Sweet And Dandy (Beverley’s Records, 1969)
From The Roots (1970)
Monkey Man (1970)
Slatyam Stoot (Dynamic Sounds, 1972) Funky Kingston (Dragon, 1973)
Roots Reggae (Dynamic Sounds, 1974)
In The Dark (Dragon, 1974) Reggae Got Soul (Island Records, 1976)
Pass The Pipe (Tuff Gong, 1979)
Live (Mango, 1980)
Just Like That (Mango, 1980)
From The Roots (Trojan Records, 1981)
Knock Out! (Mango, 1981)
Live At Reggae Sunsplash (Sunsplash Records, 1983)
An Hour Live (Genes Records, 1990)
Life Could Be A Dream (Studio One, 1992)
Recoup Artists (Only! Records, 1997)
Ska Father Artists (Only! Records, 1998)
Live In London (Trojan Records, 1999)
Live At Red Rocks (PRG Records, 2000)
World Is Turning (D&F Records, 2002) True Love (V2 Records, 2004)
Interview (V2 Records, 2004)
Hold On (Brook, 2006)
Light Your Light (Fantasy, 2007)
Flip And Twist (D&F Music, 2010) Unplugged On Strawberry Hill (Phree Music, 2012)
Live! (Island Records, 2012)
Morgan Heritage is made up of 5 out of the 29 children fathered by reggae star Denroy Morgan – who released a gold-certified single with ’81’s “I’ll Do Anything For You.” Denroy Morgan’s children: Mr. Mojo, Lukes, Peter, Grandpa, and Una were born in Brooklyn, New York, (he moved to New York in 1961) and raised with their ears tuned to a world of music. They learned to play R&B, rock, as well as reggae.
“All the children were educated in Springfield, Massachusetts,” says Una, “Our grandmother moved first, then called our dad and told him to move there for the better education system and nicer environment. We came back to Brooklyn on weekends to practice in our father’s recording studio.” Yet within the United States, Morgan and his familyd created a tiny pocket of Jamaica. “We were always aware of American culture,” says lead singer Peter. “But Springfield is close to the countryside, like Jamaica. We even had chickens running around our yards in both places. Our parents spoke to us only in Jamaican [patois] at home, but our dad would urge us to speak more American. We didn’t want to. Home had a Jamaican, Rastafarian atmosphere.”
Morgan Heritage was a virtual unknown in Jamaica when an awed MCA A&R (Artist & Repertoire) executive signed the group in Montego Bay, hot off the Reggae Sunsplash ’92 stage. Miracles, the group’s debut album, was released in 1994.
“At the time, majors were signing reggae because the deejay [reggae rapping] thing was getting pop play with Mad Cobra, Shabba Ranks, and Patra,” says Peter. “We were viewed as a Jackson Five story within reggae. When they first saw us, they knew our music was reggae, but after we were finally signed, they started dealing with us politically, telling us they want ‘this’ and `that’ type of song for pop radio. During the two years we were making the album, the music got more and more diluted from its original form. We had recorded almost 30 songs with Sly and Robby and other Jamaican producers before and after Sunsplash, but MCA only wanted one Sly and Robbie song.
Miracles is not authentic reggae. It’s an MCA record with Morgan Heritage only as the artists performing.”
Morgan Heritage was released from its contract late in 1994. The following year, Morgan and his family returned to Jamaica, settling in bucolic St. Thomas parish. For the children raised in Brooklyn, it was a true homecoming, and they began digging deeper to discover their musical/cultural roots by working with such famed local producers as Bobby “Digital” Dixon and Lloyd “King Jammy” James.
“They have a history in reggae and breaking many dancehall and reggae artists,” says Peter. “It was like working with Sly and Robbie but on a more grassroots rather than an international level. That’s what really brought us into the Jamaican marketplace.”
Protect Us Jah, produced by Bobby Digital and released in 1997, by Brickwall/VP, includes hit singles “Set Yourself Free,” “Let’s Make Up,” “Live Up,” and the set’s title song, which was the first Morgan Heritage tune to make the reggae take notice of the group. One Calling, produced by Jammy and released by Greensleeves/VP, delivered smash hits “God Is God, “Trodding To Zion,” “Coming Home” and the title track.
“It’s just the pulse of the people,” Peter observes. “You won’t get hip hop if you’re not from NY, LA, or places in America where you can feel the vibe. You feel the reggae vibe here on the island. You can produce reggae anywhere, but it’s not going to feel like Jamaica. Reggae is the heartbeat of these people, it comes from their pulse, so you have to mingle with the people and know what they’re about.”
After their two Jamaican-produced albums, Morgan Heritage branched out to work with other top recording studio giants – Philip “Fattis” Burrell, Donovan Germaine, Tony Rebel, and sax legend Dean Frazier. Reggae Bring Back Love, released during the heights of World Cup Reggae Boyz fever, increased the group’s visibility in the reggae scene. It was included in the Heritage’s ground-breaking fourth set, Don’t Haffi Dread, (VP Records, 1999), also produced by Bobby Digital, and featuring the title song, “Don’t Haffi Dread.” This hit song stressed the importance of the “content of one’s character” rather than such superficial concerns as hair style. It became an international hit. The lyrical theme that one doesn’t have to wear the customary dreadlocks to embrace Rastafarianism – sparked off a reggae controversy that continues to this day.
“We don’t argue the point,” says Peter. “But sometimes, if we do spend the time reasoning, they have to say, `It’s true.”
After the move to Jamaica, Morgan Heritage also set out to fulfill a not so hidden agenda: resolving petty rifts that divide the local music community by creating imaginative collaborations with leading artists, including younger stars Luciano, Buju Banton, Capleton, and veteran singers like Toots Hibbert and Edi Fitzroy. The “Morgan Heritage and Friends” album serie impresses as much for its searing tracks as for bringing together artists usually not found on the same package. The group also began building its own productions.
“We’ve developed our artistic, writing, production, and executive sides, by representing our own companies,” Peter noted at the time. “We’ve accomplished a lot in the past 5 years we’ve been in Jamaica, and we thank Jah.”
Says Una, “The advantage is that is everything stays within the family business – management, the writing, production. Even if there’s a disagreement, we’re right there with each other. We believe that the Creator has blessed us with this mission of music, and we believe our message is universal because everyone understands and feels love in one form or another.”
More Teachings is clearly one of the group’s crowning achievements, but Morgan Heritage has also been busy spreading the love, producing other artists, including Jah Cure, Bushman, Jahmali, and their father, for the family’s labels. 71 Records released More Teachings in tandem with VP Records, and Heritage Music Group [HMG] released the two Family & Friends sets. The family also produced the September 2000 Morgan Heritage album, Gunz in the Ghetto, another compilation featuring Heritage with other artists, including Bounty Killer on the title song. LMS, a trio of younger Heritage siblings, is already delivering reggae imaginations with high energy performances.
Miracle (MCA, 1994) Protect Us Jah (VP Records, 1997)
One Calling (VP Records, 1998)
Don’t Haffi Dread (VP Records, 1999)
Live! In Europe 2000 (VP Records, 2000)
I Calling (Greensleeves Records, 2000)
More Teachings (VP Records, 2001)
Three in One (VP Records, 2003) Full Circle (VP Records, 2005)
Live: Another Rockaz Moment (VP Records, 2006)
Caribbean Party(Universal Distribution, 2007)
Mission in Progress (VP Records, 2008) Here Come the Kings (VP Records, 2013) Strictly Roots (CTBC Music Group, 2015) Avrakedabra (Empire Distribution, 2017)
Long before the Itals became a reality, Keith Porter recorded his first hit single, “Hitey Titey,” with the Westmorelites on the Studio One label in 1967. Around 1969, Keith became lead singer for a band named Soul Hermit, backed by Eugene Gray and Wignal Henry on guitars, with Reginald Seewell and Nash on bass and drums. They played in numerous entertainment sectors of Jamaica until Owen Sinclair put together a new band in 1971. Called Future Generation, the band was composed of Dalton James and Roy Hilton on drums, Devon Henry on keyboards, Eugene Gray, guitar, Scott on sax, and Keith on vocals. They performed throughout Jamaica for years, singing all styles of music, American R&B and love songs and native Jamaican songs.
Tiring of the club scene around 1975, Keith ran into Ronnie Davis on Orange Street in Kingston and asked him who was auditioning. Ronnie gave him a cassette with a rhythm he”d just had a hit on. “I was so happy with that rhythm I didn’t look any further,” said Keith. “In less than a week I had written Ina Disa Time and came back to Kingston to record it for Lloyd Campbell’s SpiderMan label. Lloyd felt it needed some harmonies with my lead, so Ronnie and I both added harmony parts. There was no intention of forming a group called the Itals; the record first came out as Keith Porter. After the song was on its way to becoming a hit in Jamaica, we all went out to do some promotion. Lloyd, Ronnie, myself and Brian Thomas of RJR were sitting out back in the cantina, when Brian said “why not call them the Itals”, because now there was more than one person singing. Everyone liked that name. It sounded good, so all of a sudden, Itals was a group. It was never intentional. I’ve always wondered if the name was the result of Brian noticing how strict I was about the food I ate, strictly Ital.”
Campbell quickly re-pressed the record as “the Itals” to meet demand. Today the song remains the Itals’ signature tune, and has been described by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones as “the perfect reggae track“. It is included on the Rolling Stones” Artist Choice CD, released in 2003, available through Starbucks Coffee from Hear Music, a division of EMI, and in selected major chains. The success of “Ina Disa Time” saw the group’s return to the studio with the addition of Lloyd Ricketts singing a third harmony part on a series of superb recordings for the SpiderMan label.
Songs like “Don’t Wake The Lion,” “Brutal,” and “Temptation” followed on 7″ release in Jamaica and New York in “77 and “78, establishing the Itals among the best Jamaican singers and songwriters. The Itals were twice finalists in the Jamaica Festival Song Competition, and their 1981 tune, “Jamaican Style,” earned them a place at Reggae Sunsplash that year.
1982 saw the release of the first Itals’ album, “Brutal Out Deh” on Nighthawk Records. The Itals toured the US and Canada backed by the Roots Radics. Their second album, “Give Me Power,” was released to critical acclaim and hit #1 on CMJ’s Reggae Route chart. In 1985, Pollstar Magazine placed them in the top 100 artists of the year.
Their third album, “Early Recordings,” gathers together all the Itals’ early singles and several rare pre-Itals tracks for a collector’s feast from Nighthawk. The Itals’ fourth recording, “Rasta Philosophy,” won a Grammy nomination for best reggae album in 1987, followed by “Cool And Dread.” Next came the Rhythm Safari album “Easy to Catch,” followed by “Modern Age” on Ras Records, and continued touring throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Over the years, the Itals have performed countless shows worldwide.
Stephen Robert Nesta “Ragga” Marley was born April 20, 1972 and is the second son of Rita and Bob Marley. He grew up in Kingston, Jamaica and started singing professionally at seven-years old with his elder siblings Ziggy, Sharon and Cedella as The Melody Makers.
His highly anticipated solo debut EP Got Music? was released in 2006. Many artists approached him for years, whether for collaborations with R&B stars like Erykah Badu or his part on the dancehall burner “It Was Written”, and especially after Chant Down Babylon, the platinum-selling star-studded Bob Marley tribute he produced. Stephen also co-produced his brother Damian’s smash debut album, Welcome to Jamrock.
Stephen Marley has also been the recipient of eight GRAMMY awards for his work, the most of any Marley and more then any other Reggae artist. He won the GRAMMIES as a solo artist for Mind Control, Mind Control Acoustic and Revelation Part I: The Root of Life, as producer for Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley’s Half Way Tree and Welcome To Jamrock and as a member of Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers for Conscious Party, One Bright Day and Fallen Is Babylon.
The release of his debut solo album ‘Mind Control’ represented a new stage in Stephen’s evolution, one that brings together the genius of his production and his wise and soulful voice with electronic beats, smoky bass and winding keyboard runs.
In recent years, Stephen has expanded his philanthropic efforts. He continues working as the co-founder of Ghetto Youths Foundation. He also created Kaya Fest, an annual music festival that began in 2017 to raise awareness on the benefits of cannabis guided by the motto “Education Before Recreation.”
Monty Alexander was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica where he began piano lessons at the age of six. As a youngster, he was often invited to sit in with the bands of prominent musicians in Jamaica. While still a teenager, he had the opportunity to enjoy the performances of Louis Armstrong and Nat “King” Cole at the Carib Theater in Jamaica. His style of playing was deeply affected by their joyful gospel of jazz. He eventually formed a band called “Monty and the Cyclones,” which charted several songs on the Jamaican hit parade from 1958 to 1960.
In the summer of 1963, Monty played in Las Vegas, Nevada with Art Mooney’s orchestra. He was observed by Jilly Rizzo and his friend, Frank Sinatra. Jilly hired him to work in his club in New York City. At Jilly’s, he played for and accompanied many well-known personalities of the entertainment world, including “the chairman of the board” himself, Mr. Sinatra. It was at Jilly’s that he met Milt Jackson, who hired Monty to work with him. Soon thereafter, he began an association with bassist Ray Brown that lasted for many years. In addition, he performed with other jazz giants, including Dizzy Gillespie, dark Terry, and Sonny Rollins.
Since 1964, Monty has recorded with other artists and played on movie soundtracks and albums with Quincy Jones. He worked for producer/director Clint Eastwood on the film “Bird,” about the life of Charlie Parker. In 1991, he assisted Natalie Cole in a tribute to her father, Nat “King” Cole. That album, “Unforgettable,” won seven Grammy awards. In 1993, he had the honor of performing at Carnegie Hall in a tribute to the beloved jazz pianist Erroll Garner. In 1993 and 1994, he performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland with opera singer Barbara Hendricks in a program of Duke Ellington compositions. In 1995, he was back in Montreux with his all-Jamaican reggae group where he recorded a live album for Island Records, “Yard Movement.” In August 1996, Monty was invited to the Verbier Festival in Switzerland to perform George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with a full symphony orchestra directed by Bobby McFerrm. By 1996, Monty had recorded over 50 CDs under his own name and was frequently performing at leading festivals and music venues worldwide.
Alexander joined the Telarc label with the 1999 release of Stir It Up, an album that combined acoustic jazz and Jamaican reggae rhythm sections to interpret the music of the great Bob Marley. He was joined in he studio by the Jamaican reggae rhythm section known as Gumption. Gumption interfaced rhythmically with the jazz rhythm section, which included drummer Troy Davis and bassist Hassan Shakur. Telarc labelmate Steve Turre guested on trombone and conch shells. Stir It Up marked the beginning of a prolific period for Alexander on Telarc – one that continues to this day.
In 2000, he released Monty Meets Sly & Robbie, an album featuring Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare – reggae’s most respected and experienced rhythm section. This summit meeting of multi-talented and multi-faceted players results in a vibrant combination of classic soul tunes, funky jazz and hardcore grooves.
Goin’ Yard, released in 2001, was recorded live at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Goin’ Yard united Alexander with a six-piece band of Jamaica’s finest musicians, including special guest hand drummer Robert Thomas Jr.
Alexander’s My America released in 2002, includes guest appearances by guitarist John Pizzarelli and vocalists Freddy Cole and Kevin Mahogany. The following year, he teamed up with his jazz trio – including bassist Hassan Shakur and drummer Mark Taylor – for the first time in five years for Impressions in Blue. The album is a celebration of the bluesier side of jazz, with eleven tracks that include favorites from the great American songbook, as well as few selections of more exotic origin.
Alexander revisited his roots with Rocksteady, a collaborative album with reggae guitarist Ernest Ranglin release on Telarc in 2004. The album is a tribute to the ska movement that flourished in Jamaica’s Studio One (the island version of Motown) in the late ’60s and early ’70s and eventually spread throughout the world.
Live at the Iridium followed a year later. The live set, which also features bassist Hassan Shakur, drummer Mark Taylor and percussionist Robert Thomas, Jr., captures the energy and passion of Alexander’s stage performance at the well-known New York City jazz club.
In the late summer of 2005, Alexander traveled to Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong Studio in Kingston, Jamaica, with a crew of highly talented U.S. and Jamaican session players to record the brilliant follow-up to Stir It Up. Concrete Jungle, released in March 2006, is a set of twelve compositions penned by Bob Marley and reinterpreted via Alexander’s jazz piano-oriented arrangements. The resulting union of musical sensibilities digs even deeper into the Marley legend.
In November 2018, Monty Alexander received a Doctorate of Letters degree from the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. “I am so proud to have received another great honor from my beloved native Jamaica,” said Alexander, who in 2000 received the Jamaican National Award of Commander of Distinction. “It fills me with joy but I’m also very humbled.”
Alexander the Great (Pacific Jazz, 1964)
Monty Alexander (1965)
Spunky (Pacific Jazz, 1965)
Zing (RCA, 1967)
This Is Monty Alexander (Verve, 1969)
Taste of Freedom (1970)
Here Comes the Sun (MPS, 1971)
We’ve Only Just Begun (MPS, 1971)
Perception (MPS, 1974)
Rass! (MPS, 1974)
Love & Sunshine (MPS, 1974)
Unlimited Love (MPS, 1975)
Montreux Alexander (MPS, 1976)
The Way It Is (MPS, 1976)
Live in Holland (Verve, 1977)
Cobilimbo (MPS, 1977)
Estade (MPS, 1978)
Jamento (Fantasy, 1978)
So What? (Black & Blue, 1979)
Facets (Concord, 1979)
In Tokyo (Pablo, 1979)
Ivory and Steel (Concord, 1980)
Trio (Concord, 1980?)
Monty Alexander – Ernest Ranglin (MPS, 1981)
Fingering (Atlas, 1981)
Look Up (1982)
Overseas Special (Concord, 1982)
Triple Treat (Concord, 1982)
Duke Ellington Songbook (MPS, 1983)
Reunion in Europe (Concord, 1983)
Full Steam Ahead (Concord Jazz, 1985)
Threesome (Soul Note, 1985)
Friday Night (Limetree, 1985)
Saturday Night (Limetree, 1985)
Triple Treat II (Concord Jazz, 1987)
Jamboree (Concord, 1988)
Triple Treat III (Concord Jazz, 1989)
The River (Concord Jazz, 1985)
Carbbean Circle (Chesky, 1993)
Maybeck Recital Hall Series, Vol. 40 (Concord Jazz, 1994)
Steamin’ (Concord Jazz, 1995)
Yard Movement (Island, 1995)
To Nat with Love (Mastermix, 1995)
To the Ends of the Earth (Concord Picante, 1996)
Echoes of Jilly’s (Concord, 1997)
The Concord Jazz Heritage Series (Concord, 1998) Stir It Up – The Music of Bob Marley (Telarc, 1999)
Ballad Essentials (Concord Jazz, 2000)
Island Grooves (Concord Jazz, 2000)
Monty Meets Sly and Robbie (Telarc, 2000)
Goin’ Yard (Telarc, 2001)
Many Rivers to Cross (Meldac, 2001)
Caribbean Duet (Sound Hills, 2001)
My America (Telarc, 2002)
Li’l Darlin (Absord, 2003)
Steaming Hot (Concord, 2004)
Zing (BMG, 2004)
Rocksteady (Telarc, 2004)
Live at the Iridium (Telarc, 2004)
Jazz Calypso (JVC, 2005) Concrete Jungle: The Songs of Bob Marley (Telarc, 2005)
The Way It Is (, 2006)
Impressions in Blue (Telarc, 2008)
The Good Life: Monty Alexander Plays the Songs of Tony Bennett (Chesky, 2008*)
Solo (Jeton, 2008)
Calypso Blues: The Songs of Nat King Cole (Chesky, 2009*)
Uplift (Jazz Legacy, 2007–10)
Love Me Tender (Venus, 2010) Harlem-Kingston Express (Motéma, 2011) Uplift 2 (Jazz Legacy, 2013)
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion