The Skatalites

The Skatalites brought together the top musicians and styles of the time-fusing Boogie-Woogie Blues, R & B, Jazz, Mento, Calypso, and African rhythms -to create the first truly Jamaican music: Ska. Throughout the mid-twentieth century, experience in big bands solidified the prowess of most Jamaican musicians; yet, the genesis for many great Skatalites goes back to a boy's school established for the wayward.

The Alpha Cottage School, run by Roman Catholic nuns, educated many of the future Skatalites. Founded in 1880 and having its own band since the 1890's, Alpha was essentially a military style school that also developed top-notch musicians. Tommy McCook became a pupil there in 1938, playing his sax in the school's best orchestra by 1942. Fellow Skatalites, including master penman and trombonist Don Drummond, Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore, and Lester Sterling also attended Alpha, same way for Cedric Brooks.


"It was a good school. If you had ambition you could learn a trade: printer, carpenter, bookbinder, tailor, shoemaker, electrician," recalls Sterling. "You also could choose your instrument and tell the band leader... trumpet, sax, drum. Sometimes the bandleader would put you on the instrument he needed. Ruben Delgado was our teacher for band. A good teacher, he had studied in England and been in the military band." Delgado's band held Lester, Dizzy, Don Drummond, and Rico Rodriquez simultaneously. Dizzy Moore recalls wanting to play music from an early age. His parents didn't approve of the image and nightlife associated with musicians. When Dizzy heard a friend playing music he asked where he learned. The boy said, "Alpha, but you have to be bad to go there." Dizzy replied, "That's easy, man." Two years later, Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore was a pupil at Alpha; his folks glad to be straightening him out, Dizzy just happy to play music. Alpha, the beginning.

The Alpha School produced more than their share of the musicians of prominence during the '40's and '50's dance band era. The best of these players were central to the emerging sounds of the '60's. As set musicians, the Skatalites backed the top singers of the day. Stranger Cole, Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, Toots and The Maytals, Delroy Wilson, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Peter Tosh, and Jimmy Cliff are a few who benefited from tight rhythms cultivated by the new Ska collective.


As a studio recording force, the band was placed all on one track with the singer on another; 'one take' recording. These conditions forged a union among the musicians that had only one logical conclusion. Tommy McCook, Rolando Alphonso, Johnny Moore, Lester Sterling, Don Drummond, Lloyd Knibb, Lloyd Brevett, Jerome Hinds, and Jackie Mittoo began working together regularly in the early sixties and formed The Ska-talites in June of 1964. The name game went on for some time. Space themes like The Orbits and Ital-ites were being tossed around. When Knibb suggestion Satellites, Tommy McCook reportedly said, "We play ska... The Skatalites."

Ernest Ranglin, Harold McKenzie, and others built on this foundation. Other great names traveling with the band included Reverend Billy Cooke and Percival Dillon, along with top-quality singers like Lord Tanamo, Doreen Schaeffer, and Jackie Opel.

The tradition of inspiring and playing on the front lines of musical frontiers has continued. In the 80's and 90's, English ska revival groups like Madness, The Specials, and Selector and their American counterparts The Slackers, HepCat, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, No Doubt and The Rocksteady 7, all tribute the Skatalites as a primary influence. This new generation have collectively opened for and played with the Skatalites, raising awareness for and reviving the fan base for a new wave of ska.

From the start, The Skatalites changed Jamaican music forever. The creation of ska -the father of rocksteady, the grandfather of reggae -gave us eternal rhythms that now infiltrate the globe.

Chicago Jamaican Jazz Ensemble

The Chicago Jamaican Jazz Ensemble is an 8 piece ensemble that plays music in the tradition and style of early Jamaican Studio One dance bands. Before reggae, there was the celebratory music of independence in Jamaica. Music made for dancing, music that was Jamaican Jazz!
Drawing on musicians from Chicago's diverse jazz scene the music honors tradition and looks to the future of the style. Many of the featured musicians are staples in the Chicago scene and can be heard with/on Swing Gitan, Fox's Empire Series, Jennifer Hudson, The Drastics, and the Glen Miller Orchestra to name a few.
This is a one of a kind group in Chicago, this is the next generation, and we're going back to the roots!

Charley Organaire

Charles Cameron was born in Kingston, Jamaica on March 20, 1942. He was inspired by the singing of his mother Louise, and his neighbor Mr. Randolph, a mean harmonica player. From the early age of 5, Charles started performing in neighborhood concerts, churches, and lodge halls – reciting poems, singing and playing his plastic harmonica. At the age of 9, a talent scout named Vere Johns had Charles performing on the “Opportunity Knocks” radio program and at various theatres in Kingston, such as the Palace, Ambassador, Gaity, and Majestic. He performed with all the big singers like Jimmy Tucker, Winston Samuels, and Laurel Aitken, plus was a side-kick to Bim and Bam, Jamaica’s leading comedians at the time. In his teens, Charley “Organaire” Cameron performed with big bands lead by Carlos Malcolm and Sonny Bradshaw. Then Charles teamed up with Bobby Aitken and formed a band called the Carribeats, recording the hit track “Never Never” with Bobby on vocals, Charley on harmonica. Charley “Organaire” was now unstoppable, becoming a well known studio musician performing on sessions with Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, The Tenors, Derrick Morgan, Millie Small, Toots and the Maytals, Phyllis Dillon, Stranger Cole, and Lord Creator. The “Organaire” worked for the biggest labels in Jamaica: Prince Buster, Studio 1, Beverly’s, Duke Reed, Treasure Island, Highlights and King Edwards. Charley also started producing hits for his Organaire label, most notibly “Little Village/Little Holiday”, “London Town”, Illusive Baby”, “Sweet Jamaica”, “Your Sweet Love”, and “Let me Go”. Being one of the most popular entertainers in Jamaica, he moved to the north coast and worked in the tourist industry. Playboy, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, Yellow Bird, you name it, he played there. Charles moved to Chicago in the late 70’s, eventually forming his own band called “The Charles Cameron & Sunshine Festival”. The “Organaire” band played in various night clubs, for major corporations, and political functions throughout Chicago including events for former Mayors Harold Washington and Jane Burn. Charles also played at Chicago Fest, Festival of Life, Taste of Chicago, and the African Fest. Charley “Organaire” Cameron continues to write and record to this day, the title track from his “Never Stop Loving You” CD appeared in the movie “Love Jones” starring Nia Long and Lorenzo Tate, and his newly released “Friends” CD features collaborations with Charlie Hunt and Steve Bradley. In 2012/2013 Charlie Organaire became a regular fixture at Chicago’s Jamaican Oldies productions at Mayne Stage, performing with Stranger Cole, Roy Panton & Yvonne Harrison, Eric Monty Morris, Derrick Morgan, Derrick Harriott and Dennis Alcapone.

DJ Chuck Wren

DJ Chuck Wren has hosted the ska radio show “Everything Off-Beat” across the Chicago dial since 1989, currently airing Sundays at 9 PM on WLUW-FM 88.7. Since 1993, his label JUMP UP RECORDS ( www.jumpuprecords.com ) has released over 100 albums including ones by local faves Deal’s Gone Bad, The Drastics, and Green Room Rockers. His monthly night at Delialh’s is Chicago’s longest running ska/reggae night at 18 years, and when he spins you see piles of piles of original Jamaican 45s sprawled all over the place.

$15.00 - $18.00

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