Rocksteady is a style of reggae I’ve often been drawn to, with Toots and the Maytals and Augustus Pablo among my heroes. I’ve been listening to some Bitty McLean as well recently who I’m less familiar with, and he’s performing with the Jamaican Legends band soon, alongside Ernest Ranglin, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, and Monty Alexander appearing on 29 July as part of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence at London’s IndigO2 in Greenwich. He’s also playing in the more intimate surroundings of the Jazz Cafe in Camden two days later.
The O2 is playing host to the Jamaica 50 Festival for 12 days of gigs with some of the greatest names in reggae and Jamaican music taking part including Jimmy Cliff,Yellowman, U-Roy, Mighty Diamonds, Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGregor, Maxi Priest, Damian Marley, Derrick Morgan, and Toots and the Maytals all to appear.
Born in Birmingham on 8 August 1972 McLean had hits in the early 1990s with Fats Domino’s ‘It Keeps Rainin’ (Tears from My Eyes)’ a big breakthrough, and he also worked with UB40 as an engineer/producer as well as singing with the band. His albums include On Bond Street, and Movin’ On, with Sly and Robbie, recorded in Jamaica, and he continues a gigging association with the great Jamaican rhythm team to this day. With the “Riddim Twins" McLean has also recorded a follow up to Movin’ On to be released (although this is still unconfirmed) in the autumn.
Melt Yourself Down newly signed to Decca have shared punky new single ‘Boot and Spleen’.
The label glosses the single as “Inspired by the dark history of British colonialism in India, it asks the question: “What is it to be British? What’s that identity now, in 2019? What sort of behaviours are allowed towards minorities, or from minorities towards the majority?”
The London 6-piece was set up by former Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear saxophonist, the James Chance and the Contortions-loving Pete Wareham, and is fronted by lead singer Kush Gaya.
JAZZ DRUMMERS: LIVING GREATS The ultimate
1 Jack DeJohnette A thrill to hear the great Chicagoan, always. Out of the AACM and ex-Charles Lloyd, Miles Davis, standards, avant garde, rocking the room – he can do it all.
In recent years for example there has been loads going on. Sound Travels for instance was released, one of DeJohnette’s most formidable albums in years, a Robert Sadin-produced affair with the band’s size swelling and contracting to suit Jack’s arrangements. ‘Dirty Ground’ with a vocal from Bruce Hornsby was the most accessible, with a “New Orleans-meets-The Band" vibe, and a great down home shuffle from Jack who co-wrote the song with the man DeJohnette in the notes refers to as ‘The Bruce’. Rolling Stones saxophonist Tim Ries addded great soprano sax on the song, and the George Benson and Franco-inspired guitarist Lionel Loueke showed his range with some funky licks on a tune the lyric of which points to the need in New Orleans or anywhere for that matter not to give up or for that matter give in. There was even a lovely spot from Bobby McFerrin on ‘Oneness’ written for Gateway, a band DeJohnette actually reconvened for a one-off gig in his home town of Chicago.
Sound Travels was only one part of what DeJohnette has been involved with over this decade and ECM slipped out a beautiful four-CD box set Special Edition, which collected the output of DeJohnette’s band of the same name between 1979 and 1984 spread over four albums Special Edition, Tin Can Alley, Inflation Blues, and Album Album.
Fine, nuanced, spirited, free form and original in terms of writing and performance, you’ll hear highlights in this set that include David Murray brilliantly wild and fresh on the two albums he’s featured on, and Chico Freeman’s characterful bluesiness on such marvellously raucous numbers as ‘I Know’ on Tin Can Alley where the music opens up and ‘out’ becomes ‘in’.
2 Roy Haynes Last of the bebop greats.
3 Terri Lyne Carrington Composition and a sense of song are crucial in the TLC artistic profile as is huge technical skill as a drummer.
4 Jimmy Cobb On Kind of Blue. Just three very significant century, life, changing words.
5 Jeff 'Tain' Watts With Branford Marsalis he was in one of the best acoustic quartets since the 1960s. Wish he was still there with Steep. The chieftain, nonetheless, still.
6 Eric Harland An Elvin Jones for our times.
7 Nasheet Waits Son of Freddie: powers the Bandwagon.
8 Jon Christensen Belonging Band poet of the kit.
9 Billy Cobham Hugely influential jazz-rock monster, Massive Attack owe him a big debt. And we all owe BC for mucho jazz life AD and for gifting the world Red Baron among other classics.
10 Brian Blade Wayne Shorter drummer par excellence.
11 Andrew Cyrille Free jazz icon and hero.
12 Tyshawn Sorey Hugely influential on the US avant garde scene as a conceptualist and thinker who packs a visceral punch.
13 Tony Allen Afrobeat innovations feed directly into jazz. His recent Blakey album was excellent.
14 Herlin Riley Wynton's best ever drummer.
15 Marcus Gilmore Superb in the Vijay Iyer trio. Very open style.
16 Vinnie Colaiuta A revelation in recent years with Herbie Hancock, feverish and compulsive. Inspires cult-like devotion from other drummers and understandably so.
17 Dennis Chambers Monstrous with John McLaughlin back in the day.
18 Cindy Blackman Santana Check out her Muse albums. Code Red etc, and work with Lenny Kravitz as well as currently with husband Carlos Santana.
19 Kendrick Scott On the classic Flow with Terence Blanchard. A modest master at work whose own albums are fine, sometimes mellow, sometimes a riot of rhythm.
20Chris ('Daddy') Dave Most significant drummer to emerge since Jeff Tain Watts. He has created his own sound forged from the pulse of hip hop and spliced it with bebop and neosoul.