A Tribute to Reggae's Keyboard King: Jackie Mittoo

Various Artists

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A Tribute to Reggae's Keyboard King: Jackie Mittoo Review

by Rick Anderson

Most casual reggae fans won't recognize his name, but the late keyboardist Jackie Mittoo probably did as much as any other artist to shape the sound of reggae in its formative years and to guide it through its mature period. As a founding member of the Skatalites, he helped bring ska to its fully developed sound, and then ushered in the rocksteady period; as the in-house music director at Studio One, he mentored and supported such seminal artists as Leroy Sibbles (of the Heptones) and Alton Ellis, and provided both keyboards and arrangements for the Soul Vendors and Sound Dimension. In short, many of the artists most well-known to and beloved of reggae fans were shaped significantly by the musical guidance of Jackie Mittoo. This compilation is a warm and loving tribute, featuring new instrumental arrangements of 18 of Mittoo's most popular and enduring tunes, each of them featuring a pianist or organist who was influenced by Mittoo's playing and writing -- these include Jamaican jazz legend Monty Alexander (on a gorgeous rendition of "Evening Time"), Gladstone Anderson ("Full Charge"), Wailers alumnus Tyrone Downie ("Mission Impossible"), and Robbie Lyn ("Autumn Sounds"). Producers Christopher Chin and Donald Clive Davidson provide respectfully rootswise rhythms that get perhaps just a bit samey by the end of the long program, but never fail to provide a perfect setting for the featured players. Highly recommended.

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