The Caribbean: Carried Way Beyond

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Orphy Robinson MBE expands on his first written account of the Caribbean influence on jazz and wider UK society, with an extended article exclusively for NYJO on Windrush Day 2021.

For those of you who’d like to know a little bit more about some of Orphy’s favourite Caribbean jazz musicians, you can find a breakdown below, including recommended listening!

The Caribbean: Carried Way Beyond

Dizzy Reece, Trumpet (Jamaica)

Dizzy Reece, whose father was a silent movie pianist, began his music education on tenor sax and moved onto the Trumpet at the age of 14.  His formal training was at the Alpha Boys school, becoming a professional session musician at the age of 16. He travelled to London in 1948 and was very soon acknowledged as a player of note. Frequently performing with the best young musicians in London, these included Victor Feldman and Tubby Hayes.

He was also able to record some albums and EPs for the Tempo label.

He moved around Europe performing and touring with many visiting American Jazz musicians such as Thad Jones, Don Byas, Kenny Clarke and Frank Foster. Constantly travelling back and forth to the UK. Reece moved to the USA in 1959 and signed to the legendary Blue Note Records where he released a number of albums. The first of these had drummer Art Taylor and trumpeter Donald Byrd in the band.  He appeared with many iconic players throughout his career, such as Duke Jordon, John Gilmore, Philly Joe Jones and Clifford Jordan and Wynton Kelly to name a few.

Essential Discography:

Asia Minor (1962)
Comin’ On! (1960)
Blues in Trinity (1958)

The Caribbean: Carried Way Beyond

Wilton ‘Bogey’ Gaynair, Tenor Sax (Jamaica)

“Bogey” Gaynair, was a mighty tenor saxophonist with a big warm sound and a measured lyrical dexterity. Gaynair illuminated the British hard bop scene briefly in the late 50s. He recorded two solo albums in the UK before ultimately settling in Germany. Performed with George Shearing, Carmen McRae, Gil Evans, Freddie Hubbard, Bob Brookmeyer, Mel Lewis, Stan Getz, Horace Parlan.  

Essential Discography:

Africa Calling (2006)
Blue Bogey (2000)
Alpharian (1991)

The Caribbean: Carried Way Beyond

Russell Henderson, Steel Pan/Piano (Trinidad & Tobago)

Russell Audley Ferdinand “Russ” Henderson MBE was originally from Trinidad & Tobago he arrived in London in the 1951.  Henderson is widely acknowledged as one of the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival. In the 50s he worked with other Pan players and Calypsonians like Lord Kitchener and Young Tiger. His regular Sunday gig at the Coleherne pub attracted Jazz players like Joe Harriott and Shake Keane and was a mecca for the West Indian musicians London. Henderson played the first Carnival 1964. He performed on pans or piano at the 606 club in London for many years and remained at the heart of the Notting Hill Carnival throughout his life. He was awarded an MBE for services to music in 2006. Two commemorative plaques were unveiled in his honour at Carnival square in 2012.

Essential Discography

West Indian Drums – London is The Place for Me (2005)

The Caribbean: Carried Way Beyond

Harry Beckett, Trumpet (Barbados)

Harry was born in Bridgetown, Barbados. Showing great promise on the trumpet at an early age. In 1954 he left Barbados at age 19 only travelling with his Trumpet. He soon started making valuable musical connections while playing around London with the burgeoning West Indian Jazz community of musicians.  

A lyrical player with a fiery tone when needed on both Flugelhorn and Trumpet and a musician who worked hard to gain employment and make a name for himself, eventually things started to work out for Harry in the 1960s as fellow musicians respected his lyrical, imaginative trumpet-playing.

Working with Graham Collier from the mid 1960s through to 1977. Beckett had a feature in the Charles Mingus band in the 1961 film ‘All Night Long’. Regular work with the South African band leader Chris McGregor in the Brotherhood of Breath Orchestra and the Mike Westbrook Orchestra helped to cement his name on the European Jazz scene.

London Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, Mike Gibbs, Tony Oxley and John Surman are just some of the high-profile musical situations that Beckett appeared with over his career. A founder member and respected elder of the ground-breaking 1980s Black Jazz big band the “Jazz Warriors” saw him working with the next generation of young West Indian heritage Jazz musicians.

Essential Discography

The Modern Sound of Harry Beckett (2008)
Passion and Possession (1991)
Warm Smiles (1971)

The Caribbean: Carried Way Beyond

Joe Harriott , Saxophone (Jamaica)

Joe Harriott was born on the island of Jamaica. He attended the famous Alpha Boys school, noted for its Musical Alumni, where he concentrated on learning the Saxophone. Playing in the swing bands of the day in Jamaica, he became a noted fiery bebop virtuoso on Alto Saxophone. In 1951 a spell with a Cruise ship band led to the UK.

Meeting up with fellow Jamaicans and Alpha boy’s Alumni trumpeter Dizzy Reece, he soon started making a name in the London Jazz scene. He became a member of the Ronnie Scott’s big band. Playing with London’s top Jazz musicians like Tony Kinsey and Phil Seaman. In 1958 he started experimenting and developing what he termed “free form” Jazz with his band including Shake Keane. Harriott’s music used harmony, free improvisation, rhythmic inventions to great effect, slightly predating Ornette Coleman’s own Free Jazz experiments in 1959.

He was comfortable in many different musical situations, these included the facility and flexibility to play and sound authentic in Trad Jazz groups, mainstream bands, experimental music such as the Indo-Jazz fusion, and some Jazz meets Poetry projects with Michael Garrick.

Neglected later in life, he was also known to be a complicated and turbulent personality. Sadly, Harriott never received the recognition that his undoubted talent deserved.

Essential Discography

Free Form (Jazzland, 1960)
Abstract (Columbia UK & Capitol US, 1963)
Indo-Jazz Suite – with John Mayer (Columbia UK & Atlantic US, 1966)

The Caribbean: Carried Way Beyond

Shake Keane, Trumpet/Poetry (St. Vincent)

Ellsworth McGranahan “Shake” Keane was born on the island of St Vincent. Taught music by his father, he concentrated on the Trumpet from the age of 6. Nicknamed “Shake” after William Shakespeare for his love of literature and words, Shake qualified as a teacher prior to heading to the UK where he continued his studies, reading literature at London University by day and playing Trumpet at night in Soho nightclubs with West Indian Jazz musicians.

He soon started to make a name for himself through session work that included working with Calypsonian Lord Kitchener. He struck up a fruitful partnership with Jamaican Saxophonist Joe Harriott adding Flugelhorn to his Trumpet playing. Their partnership expanded into Harriott’s free form Jazz experiments and joined together with Michael Garrick for “Jazz and Poetry” experimentations.

In 1965 Keane moved to Germany linking up with the Jamaican Tenor player Wilton ‘Bogey’ Gaynair. In Germany Shake became an in-demand session player, performed with amongst others Kenny Clarke- Francy Boland group.

In 1972 he returned to St Vincent; there he became involved in local politics which led to his appointment to the esteemed position of Government Minister of the Arts. In 1975 he went back to teaching and writing poetry. In 1980 he worked in New York as a cultural attaché. Reverting back to teaching when the St Vincent Government changed.

Essential Discography

The Big Fat Horn of Shake Keane (1966)
Bossa Negra (1962)
Real Keen Reggae into Jazz (1991)

The Caribbean: Carried Way Beyond

Elaine Delmar, Vocals (Jamaican Heritage)

Elaine Delmar the daughter of Leslie “Jiver” Hutchinson toured with her father from the age of 16. Started on piano before moving on to singing, touring in her own right as she built her career. Possessing a skilled and encyclopaedic knowledge of the standard jazz vocal repertoire, Delmar became a frequent performer at the Ronnie Scott’s club. She also featured in concert with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis ‘s Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra in 2010.

Delmar has also had a quite productive acting career, gaining some successful and critically acclaimed stage and appearances in London and Broadway. 

Essential discography

S’Wonderful (1992)
Elaine Delmar and Friends – I’ve got the world on a string (1976)
Nobody Else but Me (1997)

The Caribbean: Carried Way Beyond

Courtney Pine, Saxophone (Jamaican Heritage)

Courtney Pine is of Jamaican heritage. He began his musical career playing reggae, touring with some high-profile artists in the genre at a young age. Pine had ambitions to be an astronaut and his meteoric music career saw a stratospheric rise in the mid 1980s. In 1985 he was a principal founder member of the seminal black British big band the “Jazz Warriors”. Pine’s own career led to international focus with his debut album crossing over from Jazz to gain pop chart status.

His albums have constantly integrated influences from the current trends of the day. In 2000 he was appointed an OBE followed up with a CBE honour in the 2009. Pine is considered a national treasure. Now establishing a presence on Radio Jazz shows as a presenter.

Essential Discography

Journey to the Urge Within (1986)
Destiny’s Song + The Image of Pursuance (1988)
To the Eyes of Creation (1992)

The Caribbean: Carried Way Beyond

Cleveland Watkiss, Vocals (Jamaican Heritage)

Cleveland Watkiss is of Jamaican descent. Award-winning vocalist, Watkiss is known as the most versatile vocalist in the UK, comfortable across many genres of music. His versatility has seen him singing Bach Doubles on tours with the top classical Violinist Nigel Kennedy, sing Jazz standards with Wynton & Branford Marsalis, tour the world with rock giants The Who and MC/Sing with leading Drum & Bass artist Goldie.

Watkiss took his first musical steps in a local Reggae talent competition hosted by the legendary Sound System operator ‘Fatman’. This led to regular appearances with the Sound System. Cleveland went on to study voice and music at the Guildhall School of Music, alongside fellow aspiring young Black Jazz musician Steve Williamson. Watkiss was a founder member of the black British big band the ‘Jazz Warriors’. The Jazz Warriors were a big band platform created out of frustration with what was seen as the continuous exclusion of talented young Black Jazz musicians from advancing onto meaningful work on the UK Jazz Scene.

Watkiss has an incredible resume, performing with many diverse artists from around the world such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Dusseldorf Symphony Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis, Bob Dylan, Jackie Mittoo, Keith Richards, the James Taylor Quartet, Art Blakey, Sly & Robbie, Abdullah Ibrahim, Stevie Wonder, Patife, the Liepaja Symphony Orchestra, Nigel Kennedy, Carlinhos Brown, Robbie Williams, Joe Cocker, The Who, Branford Marsalis, George Martin, Julian Joseph, Bocato Big Band, Lisa Stansfield, Courtney Pine, Janet Kay, Maxi Priest, Soul II Soul, the London Chamber Orchestra, Kassa Mady, the BBC Orchestra, Goldie, Cassandra Wilson, the Kenny Wheeler Big Band, Sugar Minot, Talvin Singh, Bjork, Pete Townshend, the London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC) and many more.

Cleveland Watkiss was awarded an MBE in the 2018 Honours list.

Essential Discography

Green Chimneys (1989)
Blessing in Disguise (1991)
Victory’s Happy Songbook (2001)

The Caribbean: Carried Way Beyond

Steve Williamson, Saxophone (Jamaican Heritage)

Steve Williamson is of Jamaican heritage. Williamson is considered one of the most complete musicians that the UK has produced. He started out learning Clarinet and changed over to the Saxophone at the age of 16.  He cut his teeth playing in Reggae bands, touring or recording with the iconic band Misty in Roots, The Mighty Diamonds, Dennis Brown, The Instigators and Sugar Minott to name a few.  A respected figure across genres, Steve has always been acknowledged by fellow musicians for his compositional skills, his solid technical and harmonic dexterity.  

A musician known for constantly stretching the boundaries of music in pursuit of his own personal statement and journey with sound, Williamson was a founder member of the ground-breaking black big band the Jazz Warriors, exploded onto the world scene in the mid 1980s with his album “Waltz for Grace”, released on the iconic Jazz label ‘Verve’ and featuring legendary vocalist Abbey Lincoln on the title track. Two further albums ‘Rhyme Time’ and ‘Journey to truth’ were released on the Verve label during the 1990s to critical acclaim.

Williamson has toured or appeared with many Internationally respected figures, these include South African musicians Louis Moholo and Bheki Mseleku, alongside American musicians such as Donald Byrd, Gill Scott Heron, Art Blakey and the Malian multi-instrumental musician Ali Farka Toure, as well as recording and touring with Drum & Bass artist Goldie. Williamson continues to tour new projects and compose music that will stand the test of time.

Essential Discography

A Waltz for Grace (1990)
Rhyme Time (That Fuss Was Us) (1992)
Journey to Truth (1994)

The Caribbean: Carried Way Beyond

Pat Thomas, Piano (Antiguan Heritage)

Pat Thomas’s parents were Antiguan immigrants. Thomas was born in 1960 and started playing piano at the age of 8, studying classical music and playing Reggae. He was then inspired to play Jazz after seeing the Virtuoso Canadian Pianist of West Indian heritage, Oscar Peterson on the television. Thomas moved on to explore and incorporate a more open and freer approach to his playing and around 1979, finding that the free improvised music scene was where his main music interest lied.

Thomas is not only known for his virtuoso Piano skills but his cutting-edge Electronics programming and utilising pre-recorded Tapes.  Thomas has subsequently appeared with many of the main players in the UK these include Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill, Roger Turner, Tony Oxley as well as the groundbreaking duet with Orphy Robinson in their group ‘Black Top’.  Officially recognised by their Jazz Fm awards nomination for “Innovation” in 2017.

2014 saw Thomas’s composing skills recognised with a well-deserved composers award from the prestigious Paul Hamlyn foundation award for artists. Thomas continues to travel internationally appearing with Moor Mother, Thurston Moore, William Parker and Hamid Drake. 

Essential Discography

The Elephant Clock Of Al Jazari (2017)
New Jazz Jungle: Remembering (1997)
Nur: Solo Piano (1999)

We want to thank Orphy for sharing with us some of his encyclopaedic knowledge as well as the immeasurable contribution these amazing musicians have made to Jazz in the UK (of course, this includes you too Orphy!)

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