Reggae In Jazz
Tommy McCook
Pressure Sounds
October 15, 2013

Track list
  1. Grass Roots
  2. Caution
  3. Sin
  4. Wild Bunch
  5. Bam Bam
  6. Black Out
  7. Collin '1'
  8. Collin '2'
  9. Bad Man
  10. Good Bye
  11. Rock Away
  12. War
  13. Beirut (CD Bonus Track)
  14. Beirut Version (CD Bonus Track)
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Lead Instrument : 5 Backing : 4 Production : 4 Sound quality : 3/4 Sleeve : 4
Legendary dub engineer King Tubby was a massive fan of Jazz, Augustus Pablo and Earl 'Chinna' Smith cited Jazz as inspiration, and the superb veteran guitarist Ernest Ranglin together with the consumate pianist Monty Alexander are known and respected for fusing Reggae with Jazz grooves. And there's also the great Tommy McCook, who died May 5th 1998 Atlanta USA of pneumonia and heart failure.

From the age of 10, Tommy McCook attended the Alpha Catholic School for Boys, where he learnt tenor saxophone, flute and music theory. He left the school at 14, and played with the dance bands of Eric Deans and Ray Coburn, subsequently developing into a fine Jazz player. In 1954 he joined a dance band in the Bahamas and further developed his technique. On his return to Jamaica in 1962 he became involved in the development of Ska, emerging as a member of the Skatalites in 1963. After the Skatalites split up in 1965, he formed the Supersonics, who became Duke Reid's house band at Treasure Isle studios. Their sublime, cool style made Treasure Isle the most popular studio of the rocksteady era and graced many hits from the Techniques, Slim Smith, Alton Ellis, the Sensations, Pat Kelly and many more. After that Tommy McCook played on many recordings for producers such as Coxsone Dodd, Joe Gibbs, Rupie Edwards, and Bunny 'Striker' Lee.

However he also recorded solo albums, which include "Cookin'", "Brass Rockers", "Hot Lava", "Horny Dub", "Green Mango", and (with Bobby Ellis) "Blazing Horns". Another one was this "Reggae In Jazz" album, recorded in 1975 for producer Stanley 'Buster' Riley, who released it on his Mummy label (also appearing as limited release on Dennis Harris' Eve Records in 1976). Despite its title, the connection with jazz is none too clear on "Reggae In Jazz", which is essentially a set of reggae instrumentals. While listening to the tracks that were featured on the original album it looks like this is rather a compilation set as it features a few tunes from a different source than a real Tommy McCook solo album. Included are a brace of organ instrumentals like e.g. "Sin", "Colin '1'" and "Colin '2'" that lack the saxophone or even flute play of Tommy McCook. And it's obvious that Ansel Collins' "Black Out", the melodica cut to the Viceroys' "Mission Impossible", was borrowed from Buster Riley's older brother, Winston Riley. The best tracks are "Grass Roots", "Wild Bunch", "Good Bye", "War" (a horns cut to the Techniques' "Man Of My Word" from 1968) and the two bonus tracks - the tough "Beirut" and "Beirut Version" - that are featured on the cd. It's actually Winston Riley's session band The Mercenaries that revitalized Jackie Mittoo & the Soul Vendors' "Hot Milk" riddim 'inna rockers style' for the 1976 released 7" single "Beirut", a rare cut to Honey Vaughn's "This Tribulation".

Although this isn't Tommy McCook's best album, it's a nice one with a few tracks fully making clear that Tommy McCook was an excellent musician and arranger.