TOMMY McCOOK (b. 1927 - † 1998)
* * * /1977 - Blood and Fire - studio - discs:1
Tommy McCook (Havana, Cuba 1927 - Atlanta, USA 5 May 1998) was a milestone in the history of the Jamaican music. The played tenor saxophone and flute. Co-founder of the stellar Skatalites, he would later play as a session man (very often with trumpeter Bobby Ellis and alto saxophonist Herman Marquis as members of the Revolutionaries and the Bunny Lee's band called the Aggrovators) for everybody, always adding a special sound to the recordings he was involved in. At eleven years old he entered the famous Alpha Boys School in Kingston. At sixteen, in 1943, he joyned the Eric Dean's Orchestra, a leading jazz - swing band of the period. In 1954 Tommy went to the Bahamas were he stayed until 1962. Back in Kingston he was approached by Sir Coxsone Dodd, which was assembling a band. Tommy was asked to lead this band, and of course that was an offer that he accepted. McCook created the Skatalites. In the period 1964 / 1965 they recorded for Dood, Duke Reid, Lloyd Daley, Lesley Kong, Vincent Chin and Justin Yap. Ska turned to Rocksteady and the arrest of Don Drummond (he murdered his girlfriend and was incarcerated) set the end of one of the most (maybe "the" most) powerful band that ever came out of Jamaica. After defining the Ska era, Tommy fronted the Supersonics at Reid studio in the Rocksteady period. In the mid 70's former members of the Skatalites recorded together but it was not a real reunion (meanwhile in 1969 Drommond had died in the Bellevue Mental Hospital). The present CD offers two re-releases of sets from the mid 70's plus two extra tracks. The first set is "Blazing Horns" (released originally in 1979) produced by Yabby You. The second set is "Tenor In Roots" and is commented separately. The nine instrumentals set of "Blazing Horns" originally appeared on Grove Music label in 1979. The title track here is delivered with its extension: a B-side Dub mix originally called "No Water" and issued by Grove Music. This Revolutionaries-Aggrovators style of sound is spiced by Yabby You (producer), Barnabas and Ernest Hoo Kim (engineers) and Prince Jammy (mixing engineer). The musicians are: Sly Dunbar (drums), Robbie Shakespeare (bass), Clinton Fearon (lead guitar), Albert Griffiths (rhythm guitar), Bernard "Touter" Harvey (piano), Ansel Collins (organ) and the great Bobby Ellis (trumpet). The album was recorded at Channel One and mixed at King Tubby's. The tracks are: "Blazing Horns", "Tears Of Love", "Glorious Lion", "Mine Eyes", "Jamaican Place", "Yellow Bird", "Tommy's Mood", "Ites Of Zion" and "Jah". After the good original nine tracks of the "Blazing Horns" set, follows "Lamb's Bread" (also for Yabby), the great gem here! Almost seven minutes of pure powerful tenor sax textures over running Roots: a five stars instrumental indeed! This instrumental appeared as a 12" B-side. The other extra track is the 12" mix version of "Riding West". This is a Rockers tune produced by Bunny Lee. Tommy McCook was that kind of musician that would have felt highly and perfectly confident playing with Miles Davis as with a Yabby You at the controls. He did not cut with the former, but listen to what came out with the latter and you will agree with me.
TENOR IN ROOTS
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1972-1977 - Blood and Fire - studio - discs:1
The second complete set featured in the Tommy McCook's Blazing Horns / Tenor in Roots from Blood and Fire is the Glen Brown produced "Tenor In Roots" (released originally in 1977). The set appeared briefly in 1977 on a white label. The set opens with two tracks cut for Brown in 1972: "More Music" and its B-side called "Tubby's Control". The rest is from the following years. A list of the players is not available at the moment. The list of the remaining tracks reads: "Everyday Sax", "South Side Feeling", the romantic and sweet "When I Fall In Dub", "Far Over Yonder", "Gold Street Skank", "Harry Meet Tommy", and "Way Down In South". The material is not totally inspiring, but this is due to the fact that most of the rhythms are not particularly impressive. What remains is indeed the unique saxophone of the great Tommy McCook.
KING TUBBY MEETS THE AGGROVATORS AT DUB STATION* * * * /1975 - Trojan - studio - discs: 1
"King Tubby Meets The Aggrovators At Dub Station" is a powerful set that presents the musical conjunction of two seminal figures of the Jamaican music: King Tubby and Tommy McCook. Here Tommy leads one of the greatest Jamaican bands: The Aggrovators. They formed in 1970 when the legendary producer Bunny "Striker" Lee approched the bassist Robert Shakespeare that at the time was playing in Cornel Campbell's live band called the Eternals. Lee added some great talents as the organist Bernard "Touter" Harvey, and members of the Soul Syndicate like the guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith and drummer Carlton "Santa" Davis. The name Aggrovators comes from the singer Eddie Grant. Legend has it that once speaking with Bunny "Striker" Lee and referring to an aggravating situation he used to say "That's aggro, man!". Lee immediately startd to call his band the Aggrovators. For those with a keen eye, the title on the front cover is wrongly printed as Tommy McCook & The Agrovators, with only one "g" in the name. In 1974 The Aggrovators adopted a new sound called the "flying cymbal style". This pervasive beat was based on the use of an open and closed high-hat pattern from the drummer. This sound was a trademark of the material produced by Bunny Lee and his Aggrovators during 1975 with hits from Johnny Clarke, Cornel Campbell and Linval Thompson among the others. Tommy McCook played a fundamental role inside the music produced by Lee. Often the recorded material was mixed by King Tubby, a long time friend of Lee. And when Lee (and many others) needed a Dub treat Tubby was the first choice. The present twelve set appeared in 1975. It opens with "Creator Of Dub" versioning Johnny Clarke's version of Burning Spear's "Creation Rebel". Follows "A Happy Dub" using Clarke's version of the Wailers "Put It On". Here McCook salutes Don Drummond (friend and former member of The Skatalites) by using the refrain of the Ska hit "Occupation". The third track is "A Collie Dub", based on Campbell's version of the Mad Lads hit "Ten To One". Follows "The Dub Station" as an original composition, with an incredible James Bond theme styled introduction. "The Height Of Dub" versions the stellar "Press Along Natty Dread" from Campbell. The sixth track is "Inspiring Dub" is based on the Righteous Brothers "Soul And Inspiration". Follows "Jah Soy Dub" which versions the five star song from the Wailers called "So Jah Say". The eighth track is called "Sprinkling Dub (King Tubby Mix)" and it is followed by "A Agrovating Dub". The tenth track is "King Tubby Dub" based on Delroy Wilson versioning The Temptations "Get Ready". Follows "Caretaker Dub" which is based on Wilson's version of The Impressions "You Must Believe Me". The original release closes with "At The Dub Market", based on Linval Thompson's "Long Long Dreadlocks". This rerelease contains other twelve (!) tracks. The bonus section opens with "Dance With Me" versioning Clarke's "Rock With Me Baby". The second track is "The Meducia", a Clark's version of the Wailers "No Woman No Cry". Follows "The Dub Take" is based on Clark's version of Gene Chandler's "Duke Of Earl". The fourth track is "Moving Out", again versioning Clarke's "Rock With Me Baby". After that comes "Canon" versions Clarke's "Hold On". Follows "Kojak", based on Campbell's "I Am The Gorgon" versioning Derrick Morgan's "Conquering Ruler". Here Tommy McCook also incredibly musically quotes the Jazz master Duke Ellington's "Take The A Train". The following track is "Midnight Special", based on Clarke's version of The Heptones "Why Did You Leave". Than comes "Rock By Sir Dees Scorcher", a tribute to the old time Jazz Jamaican sounds. Follows "Jah Love Rockers Dub", with Tommy on flute. Here he quotes Dave Brubeck's Jazz hit "Take Five" over Clarke's "Enter Into His Gates With Praise". The tenth track is "Six Million Dollar Version" (titled after Dennis Alcapone's "Six Million Dollar Man") versions Leroy Smart's "Pride And Ambition". Follows "African World Wide Version" based on Clarke's "Roots Natty Congo" and Dillinger's version. The bonus tracks section closes with "Don't Take Another Man's Life Version", based on Clarke's "Love Your Brothers And Sisters" and Dillinger's version too. So here we are. This is were the music you listened to originally comes from. What Tommy McCook and The Aggrovators created from those original musical suggestions, along with the keen ear of both Bunny Lee and King Tubby, is great and enlightening. Version to version, what is delivered at the end are most of the time strong musical statements from the horns leaded by the great McCook. Enjoy this Jazz filled set!
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1961-1963 - Trojan - studio - discs: 2
"The Skatalite" is a set originally released in 1964. The twelve tracks collected here are performed by various artists with McCook providing the essential touch on each track. The list of the artists reads: Roland Alphonso & Don Drummond, Justin Hinds & The Dominoes (with a wonderful "Carry Go Bring Home"), Duke Reid's All Stars, Stranger Cole (listen to the small classic gem called "Rough And Tough"), Frank Anderson & Don Drummond & The Skatalites, Stranger Cole & Patsy Todd, and Baba Brooks & His Band. All the tracks were produced by the great Arthur "Duke" Reid. The present re-release appears in the double CD "Don Drummond - Memorial Album" from Trojan. In addition to the great material of the original "The Skatalite", there are thirteen bonus singles from the period produced by The Duke. So at the end there are twentyfive Ska tracks with some wonderful pearls hare and there!
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1974 - Pressure Sounds- studio - discs: 1
Please refer to the Errol Brown's page for my comments on "Pleasure Dub".