Monday, August 11, 2008

King of Rock Steady at the Jazz Cafe




For a year or two in the late sixties the infectious Jamaican ska rhythm gave way to a slower rock steady beat, only for that in turn to make way for reggae a short time later. The King of Rock Steady was, and still is, Alton Ellis, who appeared at the Jazz Cafe last night. Backed by an excellent Jamaican band (mostly UK based I suspect) Alton looked dapper in a white suit and pork pie hat and ran through many of his classic late sixties tracks, including Rock Steady itself, Let Him Try, Ain't That Loving You, Can I Change My Mind and Breaking Up Is Hard.

Alton professed tiredness after a busy schedule in Jamaica and disappeared halfway through his set, to be replaced by his son Chrsitopher who, it has to be said, was a decent replacement. The mostly young crowd didn't seem to mind but gave a big cheer when Alton reappeared for a couple of numbers at the end, before leaving the stage again for Christopher to finish off with his dad's early track Dance Crasher.

I've always thought that rock steady is an under rated form of Jamaican music, having been swept away almost completely by the tide of reggae. But last night's show was a reminder of just how good it was and how good a singer Alton Ellis was. He's not bad now, but let's hope he's not so tired next time he comes over.

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