Posted November 21, 2007 in

While the Jamaican trombonist Rico Rodriguez is perhaps best known for his early-’80s stint with two-tone ska wonderboys the Specials, both his résumé and capabilities far outstrip whatever flimsy merits that particular affiliation brought. His musical background—a classically-trained player who deeply dug the jazz style of ‘bone bosses Kai Winding and JJ Johnson—set him apart from many of his colleagues, yet his natural talent made him such an indispensable force that even as a teenager, he was on hand for the very dawn of Jamaican pop recording; Rodriguez participated in the earliest studio efforts of future ska-reggae overlords Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid, and he remained an in-demand session man right up until his emigration to the UK in 1961. There, he blew straight jazz with Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames and also accompanied or supported virtually every Jamaican act that hit Britain (everyone from ska spearhead Prince Buster to Bob Marley). All this contributed to the development of his first-rate playing, an easy-going, communicative style that brings loads of color and atmosphere to any song with just a few notes (get a load of his superb 1976 album Man From Wareika, or his outstanding work on Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Forces of Victory). Rodriguez’s smooth, soulful and deceptively simple lines achieve an expressive eloquence few can match, and any chance to pick up an earful from this master is an opportunity not to be squandered.


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