Thursday, October 20, 2016

RIP Bobby Ellis (1932-2016)

In the fourth grade my parents coerced me into playing the trumpet in the elementary school band.  I really wanted to play the drums and was encouraged by my Dad who had spent a good part of his youth providing the beat for a couple cover bands on his Ludwig jazz set he got for a steal at a pawn shop in 1963, my Mom wasn't too sure.  She suggested the saxophone or the clarinet but after doing some investigating by digging into the encyclopedia, I decided on the trumpet.  So to make a long story short, I absolutely hated it.  So much so that at that young age I realized that I was not a musician; practicing was torture, my lips hurt, I couldn't for the life of me bother to learn the notes and the valve positions and I hated lugging it around back and forth on the school bus.  The final straw, and the end to my short-lived career as a trumpeter came when November rolled around and my band teacher asked that I not participate in the Christmas concert and even sent a note home to guarantee that I wouldn't attend.  Most kids back then would have taken that as an opportunity to really practice and show that "goddamn teacher" a thing or two but I took the easy way out... I quit.  Besides, I didn't want to play the stupid trumpet anyway!  But, little did I know at the time that this bad experience with the trumpet would make me appreciate the instrument and those who play it so much more.  I love Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Prima, Nat Adderley and most of all, I love Bobby Ellis.

Ellis attended Alpha Boys School playing both trumpet and the flugelhorn.  The school's band played classical, waltzes and marches and it was there that Bobby learned his timing, harmony and form.  Afterwards he became the horn arranger for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One before playing on countless releases for a plethora of producers, labels and releases.  He even played with Burning Spear's Burning Band and toured with them worldwide for twelve years.  In 2014 Bobby Ellis received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government for his contribution to Jamaica's music.  I had heard rumors earlier in the week that Bobby Ellis had died and it was then that I started picking out some of my favorites and putting together a tribute mix.  Sadly, the news was confirmed this morning by the Jamaica Observer in this short obituary

Here is what I have put together in this mix...

1.  Stormy Weather w/The Crystalites
2.  Psalms 9 To Keep In Mind w/Tommy McCook
3.  Dollar A Head w/The Crystalites
4.  Shank I Shek
5.  The Emperor w/The Crystalites
6.  Determination Skank w/Don Drummond Jr. and Glen Brown
7.  Weather Report w/Deadly Headly
8.  Step Softly w/The Crystalites
9.  Green Mango w/Tommy McCook
10.  James Ray
11.  Kojak w/Tommy McCook
12.  Militant Salute w/The Professionals
13.  Ska Baby w/The Upsetters
14.  Glorious Lion w/Tommy McCook
15.  Bad Cow Skank w/Tommy McCook

Rest in peace Bobby Ellis.  Your contributions to music and the enjoyment you have provided myself and countless others is immeasurable.  You will not be forgotten.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Uncle Tacos as we call you, Rest in Peace. You were my father's best friend (Lenox Brown) who went home two years before you. I remember when you went on tour and brought my brother and I two pairs of suede shoes. Man I remember you on your Scooter, riding down Ocean View Ave to hang out with my dad. I remember when you came to Kingston Public Hospital to visit me as my dad was Ocho Rios performing. I thank God I was able to produce a song with you, and the contribution you made on others songs i produced, to include your valuable advise. I will be doing a remix in honor of you and my dad. I guess you, tenor (Lenox Brown), Tommy McCook; Don Drummond; Roland Alphanso; Joe Gibbs; Dennis Brown; Bob Marley; Count Ossie, Slim Smith; will be producing music of higher heights. God cannot die so man who is an extension of the most high, cannot die, a just higher heights Bobby. Much love and condolences to your family.
Ralston (Rallo Culture) Brown.