Roland Alphonso
Something Special:Ska Hot Shots
Heartbeat (

cd cover The Skatalites are perhaps the best known face of ska, yet the highly influential group comes into sharper focus after examining the players who make up the whole. The greater picture shows that ska is part of a progression in Jamaica's music, and Something Special brings the focus to bear on saxophonist, arranger, and bandleader Roland Alphonso. Although he passed away in 1998, Roland Alphonso was one of the lead tenors for the Skatalites and a heavyweight influence on 40 years of Jamaican music.

Alphonso worked with an arm's length list of Jamaican musicians and producers, including Young Kitchener, Duke Reid, Ernest Ranglin, Leslie Kong, and Bob Marley-evolving from mento and calypso through jazz, ska, rocksteady and reggae. One of his earliest associations was with Clement Dodd's Studio One, where Alphonso was instumental in shaping "Jamaica's Sound."

After emigrating to the United States in the early '70s, Alphonso played out in New York City, and during the '80s and '90s re-grouped with The Skatalites. He was resilient and persistent through multiple health problems, and was active until the end. For a deeper look at a pillar of Jamaican music, and 20 tracks of primo hits from the Ska era, this CD is truly Something Special. - Robert Seiden

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