Don Drummond, “world’s greatest trombonist”
A new book titled “Don Drummond : The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist” written by Heather Augustyn documents the story of highly regarded Jamaica-born trombonist Don Drummond.
Drummond was a member of the Jamaican band the Skatalites and a studio musician whose trombone graced records by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and other legendary musical figures from the world famous island.
Drummond was a brilliant musician who helped shaped the course of ska, reggae and popular music worldwide. However, he took the life of Anita Mahfood — known as Margarita the Rumba Queen — who was his girlfriend and in doing so also destroyed his career at the age of 30.
He was ruled mentally unfit, and he died in a mental asylum at the age of 35.
While he traveled outside Jamaica only once to Haiti, his musical reputation was worldwide.
In 1956, the great Sarah Vaughan came to perform on the island. Drummond played trombone as part of Vaughan’s backup and she was so impressed with his playing that she said he “likely ranked among the top five trombonist in the world.”
It is interesting that Vaughan played piano with Billy Eckstine’s band. Eckstine himself played valve trombone with his big band.
In 1959, when Dave Brubeck “stopped in the middle of a performance, starstruck by Drummond’s ability to improvise. He and guitarist Janet Enright were the only two Jamaican musicians invited to perform with Brubeck.”
It has been said that J.J. Johnson the great African trombonist born in the United States went to Jamaica just to hear Drummond.
Drummond went to Alpha Cottage School. Alpha Cottage School (often referred to as Alpha Boys School) is a school in Kingston, Jamaica, run by Roman Catholic nuns.
A “school for wayward boys,” one of the things it was renowned for was the outstanding musical tuition its students received.
According to Wikipedia, its “notable alumni, all musicians, include: the four founding members of the Skatalites (Tommy McCook, Johnny “Dizzy” Moore. Lester Sterling and Don Drummond), Dizzy Reece, Cedric Brooks, David Madden, Theophilus Beckford, Rico Rodriguez, Yellowman, Vin Gordon, Harold McNair, Joe Harriott, “Deadly” Headley Bennet, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, the Israel Vibration vocal trio (Lascelle “Wiss” Bulgin, Albert “Apple Gabriel” Craig, and Cecil “Skeleton” Spence) and Leroy Smart.
It is interesting that Barry White, Little Willie John and Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops also went to “bad boy schools.” White went to Jacob Riis High School in Los Angeles.
According to the book “Fever: Little Willie John A Fast Life, Mysterious Death and the Birth of Soul,” both Willie John and Levi Stubbs went to Moore School for a brief time.
“Don Drummond : The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist” was published by McFarland Press, and Defeayo Marsalis, trombonist and brother of Wynton Marsalis, wrote the forward.
Remembering Jayne Cortez
The Spring 2013 issue of The Black Scholar is “In Memoriam: Jayne Cortez, 1934-2012.” Cortez was an African poet, activist, small press publisher and spoken-word performance artist whose voice is celebrated for her resistance to imperialism and standing up for women. Her writing is part of the canon of the Black Arts Movement. My essay “Jayne Cortez Forced Her Way Into History” is included in this issue.
Cortez was once married to jazz icon Ornette Coleman and their son Denardo Coleman played drums in his mother’s band, The Fire Spitters, as well as Ornette Coleman’s band.
She attended John C. Fremont High School in South Central Los Angeles.
Fremont also produced Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, deputy minister of defense of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party.
In 1975, she married sculptor Melvin Edwards.
She was a pathfinder. She lived in Dakar, Senegal and in New York City where she died.
Good books to check out
Mark Miller has produced a thought-provoking book “Way Down That Lonesome Road: Lonnie Johnson in Toronto 1965-1970.” In 160 pages, Miller captures Johnson’s five year stay in Toronto, Canada.
The African blues and jazz singer, guitarist, violinist and songwriter was born Alonzo” Lonnie” Johnson in New Orleans on February 8, 1899. He died on June 16, 1970.
Johnson recorded with both Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.
I ran across The Musical and Social Journey of Horace Tappscott: Songs of the Unsung in the Toronto Public Library system. Tappscott was born in Houston, Texas in 1934 and joined the ancestors in Los Angeles in 1999. Tappscott arranged former Black Panther Elaine Brown’s Motown album, and John Huggins once sang in his choir.
A nice package
I just recieved a nice package from the Memphis, Tennessee based Ecko Records. Ms. Jody’s “Still Strokin,” Donnie Ray’s “Drowning in My Own Tears,” Jaye Hammer’s “ I Can Lay The Hammer Down” and O.B. Buchana’s “Starting All Over” came across my desk.
Sir Charles Jones makes a special appearance on Bunchana’s CD, and they sing a duet, “Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind”.