Mi noh play jazz o' funk, but Jamaican, y'know rasta...|
The man with a real horn plays with a real bone...
That is my description of this great musician, a trombonist, from Jamaica Called Rico Rodriguez.
I suppose he should be at the age of 64 or 65 now and hear that he had a new baby a couple of years ago. A man should be tough and it appeared to me that was a great evidence.
The photos of Rico here were taken in early 95 for his first album for 13 years called "Wonderful World", and its promotion. I remember, on that day, I booked a studio from 1:00 PM and asked Rico to come on time with a formal suit and his trombone.
But, what I got at 1:00 PM was not himself, but his voice on my phone saying, "Sorry, man, there was a trouble and I haven't got a suit." I just said, "I'm gonna get one for you. Just come.'
It was a hectic session. He turned up late and before him reaching the studio, I had called a shop to hire a formal suit from. As soon as he arrived to the studio, we jumped into a cab and dashed to the shop. For some reasons, we had to wait for an hour or two to get the suit, and decided to kill time by having a couple of pints of Guiness at a pub nearby.
"Y'know, once Don Cherry told me..."
He was giving me a story. If you don't know who Don Cherry is, he is one of the greatest trumpet players in history of Jazz and the father of Neneh Cherry. I hear from Rico that Don said, "How can you play like that... To play like you do, I had to go to Africa to learn." Don was mentioning that Rico's playing has got heavy African vibe.
"Mi learned dis from rasta commune, y'know, Wareika. People start drumming... When dem feel like playing, dem just play. "
It was true improvisation. There was no leader of a band as such. They just bang drums and when the air is right, one picks up an instrument and play. Perhaps one of its documents is the classic master-piece called "Grounation-- The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari" and I suppose Rico learned that thrilling playing through his experience of living there.
That experience was resulted in one of the classic albums of all time called "A Man From Wareika" by Rico out from Island Records which once was released through Blue Note in the States when the label was controlled by Liberty. Unfortunately this album was deleted and now a compilation called "Roots To The Bone" is available. In that album most of the recordings for the Wareika are included as well as some missing tracks from an unreleased album called "Midnight In Ethiopia". Sadly some great tracks like "Ska Wars", a wicked cover of "Star Wars" in reggae, are still missing, but you could enjoy the moment of Rico's peak in the 70's.
"Mi don' like playing fast... Showing off technic is not mi ting"
The point is, to Rico, to play is to cry as his voice. Perhaps the bone to him is a part of body and soul and his voice is there when he plays the bone.
I remember when he was in Japan as a guest player of Jazz Jamaica's tour in the same year, all of the guys of Ska Flames, the top ska band in Japan, experienced that thrilling moment of Rico's voice from the bone at Club Quatro in Nagoya. Jazz Jamaica got in Nagoya the day before their show and on that day actually the Ska Flames was giving a show at the same venue. When Rico got the venue, the Ska Flames were doing a rehearsal and one of the songs they are working on was a Rico's composition used be called "Soul Of Africa". Guess what happened. I asked Rico to play with them for the show and he said "yeh, man!". As I suggested him to do a bit of a rehearsal with them, Rico was approaching the stage with his bone and, when the right timing came, he started giving a solo. The time seemed stopped and a cold shiver ran down my spine. I hear everyone there felt the same. What a wicked solo!
"I never play this song for a long time. No band knows this tune... "
Perhaps he was so happy to simply play this song that gave that thrilling solo at the time. But in the actual show, his solo was not that good as the rehearsal which reminded me what Rico said before.
"One take, man, only one. Mi don play more than once in studio for a recording..."
Surprisingly all of the takes of the bone in that classic "Wareika" were done that way, I hear, and his latest studio album, "Wonderful World", was not the exception. Started off with a deep root reggae, "Fu Man Chu", you could listen to his thrilling solo even from this first track. But the most amazing point of this album is his voice. He first recorded a song as a vocalist which is the title track of the album.
"Mi wanted to sing... a long time... Mi love singing, y'know"
Some years back, when Rico came to Japan with the Bad Manners, after dinner he popped in a Karaoke bar with some friends of mine and started singing this song,"Wonderful World". I was not there, but hear his voice was so good and everybody thought he should be recording this. I mentioned about this just before him getting into studio to record this first album for more than a decade at a pub in Portbello in London again having a pint of Guiness. I was saying that he should record his voice and gave a list of the songs perhaps would suit to his voice. As the result, he selected this, "Wonderful World', to give his voices for and also decided to cover some jazz classics like "Work Song", "Stardust", and "Over The Rainbow". This is another classic capturing Rico's peak in the 80s.
Checking this deep but heartwarming sound of the album, I wanted to capture Rico's smile and happy expression in my photo. I suppose I did it well in the limited time. It was 4:00-ish when Rico and I went back to studio after having some points and getting the suit. I had only 2 hours to shoot but, spending over 20 rolls, I just kept speaking to him with his music on in the studio.
"Never smiled in photo, but, you made me feel good, man!"
Asking a friend of mine, Mitch Ikeda, a top photographer in Japan having been covering the Manic Street Preachers, to print some of the works I did for Rico, here they are. You can enjoy Rico's brilliant smile.
The album featuring my photo of Rico for the sleeve is out by Parco/Quatro in Japan only and there is a vinyl version of it featuring my photos pressed in Jamaica which include a different version of "Wonderful World' with a flugelhorn. Both Rico and I prefer this flugelhorn version and, if you would like to know how to get a copy, I might be your help. Please do not hesitate to contact me.
written on the 17th of February, '98.