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Diasporic Music: Don Drummond, Jayne Cortez and more!

Don Drummond
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”.
 
I recently did a segment on Dia­sporic Music on Uhuru Radio featur­ing Luther Lackey’s “New Orleans Blues” and Buchana’s rendition of Johnnie Taylor’s “Soul Heaven.” Click here to Download   |   Play
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