Studio One and the Ska Scene - JazzWax

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July 09, 2010


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Rab Hines

First Disco, Marc, and now Reggae?

Actually, I share your enthusiasm for Reggae and have probably been to as many Reggae shows as Jazz ones. Growing up in Crown Heights allowed for much exposure and a consequent appreciation of this vital and still developing form, although I solidly prefer the classic style. In the same buildings and streets where Bud Powell, Bobby Timmons, Kenny Dorham and others lived (and live), you will now as likely as not find dreads and root rhythm. And long before I discovered Academy records and the like, I was a regular at Strakers - I saw Keith Richards there a couple of times..

And I also appreciate your observation regarding it "...all sounding the same."

Blues, standard song form, tango and some other forms appear deceptively simple in structure but are capable of remarkable variation.

You continue to impress.


Thanks so much for this post. I've been getting deeper into roots reggae recently, but I know next to nothing about ska, so the listening tips are especially welcome. Thanks as well for dismissing claims that the forms taken by Jamaican music are "limited". All musical forms are limited, aren't they? That's why they're called "forms" and not "collections of unrelated stuff", or so I've always assumed.


Surprised not to see any mention of Ernest Ranglin who stradled the worlds of jazz and reggae.


Let's see... second-line stuff broadcast from New Orleans plus r&b hits brought in from Miami intermix with Mento and general islands sounds to produce high-steppin' Ska, which rubs up against some too-hot summers so gradually ameliorates into Rock Steady, which soon stutter-slows even more to become true Reggae (circa 1969-71)--but this bumps into political violence and sufficient attitude to generate speedier Rockas/Rockers, and in the meantime, the vocal-suppressed B-sides of 45s have invented remixed Dub Music at whatever tempo, and toasting deejays have shouted out from these Dub beds to conquer whole sections of the mesmerized listening world, while the music gets faster and nastier and lo! it's Dancehall and soon-come oversexed Ragga, and Marley is dead, and suddenly indifference and indecision seem about to rule all... but then the Rastafarian-conscious chanters and singers come down from the misty mystical hills to save the youth and i-dren of the new century, while somewhat forgotten, Dub and Deejay have continued to inculcate the thinking of whole nations of musicians and so have helped generate hip-hop and rap, drum & bass and trance, and various other sub-genres of modern world music, until Serious Wisdom can be heard and seen throughout the nation, and the Carib islands, and the outlands listening always... but it all still sounds alike of course.

Jd Crouhy

I agree with david, Ernest Ranglin, who's the greatest Jamaican guitarist (my biggest influence when i've studied guitar)has always play Jazz and Reggae ! Like pianist Monty Alexander.

'Bout ska i've always thought that the arrangement of Caravan's (on sopgisticated lady - Rca victor remaster) Ellington have a ska arrangement behind the theme : All the horn play the upbeat like ska horns !!

But it's impossible to say if this particulary arrangement has an influence on the great Don Drummond !

But that's sure that Ska/reggae are connected with Jazz ! Thanks for your article :)


Thanks for the thoughtful and informative article on reggae and ska. I play jazz and reggae gigs, and often don't tell jazz musicians that I played with Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, Alton Ellis, etc. because they just look at me with indifference.

Bill Smith

Thank you for your insight to the early Jamaican Ska and Reggae scene. I'm a big jazz fan but I also love early ska and reggae along with the soul music that influenced it early on.

Marco Romano

Pretty music that's all too taken for granted. West African Guinea beats show where roots reggae stems from. I love it all.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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