Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Laurel Aitken

Laurel Aitken
was born in 1927 in Cuba and moved to West Kingston, Jamaica in 1938 with his family when he was eleven. He began his music career in the 40's, singing songs in the Nat King Cole/Louis Jordan style of that time.

- and then cut his teeth on the sounds of R & B, soul, calypso, mento - as well as his personal love: boogie. Singing at the Glass Bucket Club and attending the roving sound systems provided stomping grounds where Laurel began to develop and hone his great talent for singing, dancing and generally attracting an audience. Laurel cut several singles in the 50's, including in 1957, the R&Bish "Roll, Jordan Roll." Laurel's big break came in a year later with the release of the "Little Sheila"/"Boogie in my Bones" double A sided single -- the first single ever released on a new upstart label called Island Records, which was founded by Englishman Chris Blackwell. "Little Sheila" spent 11 weeks at #1 on the Jamaican charts, cementing his popularity with Jamaican music fans.

Island soon grew to become the the seminal force that introduced and promoted Jamaican music in the UK -- and today retains its status as on eof the biggest supporters of Jamaican music. It is Blackwell's influence in generating English interest in the Jamaican sound that left a mark on ska's history in general and Aitken's history specifically. Laurel Aitken immigrated to England in 1960 and changed the face of ska music forever. Throughout the 50's, wave after wave of Jamaican citizens left Jamaica to settle in post-W.W.II England, where job opportunities were there for those who wanted them.With Jamaican immigrants came a demand for Jamaican tastes in the UK and Laurel heard that he could make it big overseas. Despite gray skies and miserable weather, Aitken found the Jamaican community in the London neighborhood of Brixton welcoming. A label in Britain had been releasing bootlegs of unavailable Jamaican recordings to meet the new demands -- and when Laurel arrived, he had a stern word with the responsible parties. From that meeting, Melodic started a new label - Blue Beat - to cater to the Jamaican market. After several years with Melodic, Laurel moved on and recorded for EMI, Ska Beat, Nu Beat, Direct Records and Doctor Bird Records, among many others. During this period, he cut such classic tracks as "Fire in Mi Wire," "Bartender," "Jesse James," "Landlord and Tenants," "It's Too Late" and "Pussy Price." Laurel was the only Jamaican star who regularly toured the UK and was very successful in doing so. Laurel Aitken has had a long and fruitful recording career that continues to this day. He has performed all styles of Jamaican music, including rock steady and reggae.

Throughout the 60's and 70's, " Laurel waved the Blue Beat banner. When Jerry Dammer and company went about forging a British new wave ska festival at the end of the 70's, it was the power of Laurel Aitken and Prince Buster that became Laurel continued to perform and record throughout the 80's and 90's (with such diverse ska stars as Japan's Ska Flames, Germany's Busters and America's Toasters) - and to this day remains a dynamic live performer who always wows an audience. Laurel Aitken has been deeply involved with ska music since its birth -- and through every 'wave' of ska music. He has performed all over the world and despite being 72 years young, Laurel is ready to remind the new US ska crowd that he really is the "Godfather of Ska.During the 2-Tone era, Laurel played with The English Beat and toured with the mod band Secret Affair (and was backed by the punk/reggae band the Ruts!) -- and his career was rejuvenated with the new found popularity of ska in the UK. The classic "Rudi Got Married" was released during this period on I-Spy/Arista Records. After the demise of 2-Tone, Laurel kept his faith in ska music and recorded several albums and single with the brilliant British ska band, Potato 5 and even appeared in the mod film "Absolute Beginners" with David Bowie.

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A seminal force in the American ska & reggae scene, KING DJANGO has made his name internationally as a singer, ragamuffin MC, songwriter, arranger, instrumentalist (trombone, ukulele, harmonica, melodica, etc.), producer, studio engineer and label owner (Stubborn Records).

On his newest album Roots Tonic, Django has enlisted an all-star cast of NYC's finest ska/reggae veterans. The result: twelve crucial roots reggae cuts utilizing tuff original riddims covering a wide range of styles including dark, sultry lovers rock, militant rockers, crisp rub-a-dub deejay, psychedelic dub and even niyabinghi, complex lyrical structures, and combinations with Rocker T and Dr Ring Ding. Musically, Roots Tonic harkens back to the positive, political reggae of the late 70's / early 80's spearheaded by legendary imprints Island, Frontline, Trojan, Heartbeat, On-U Sound and Greensleeves. That was a time when songwriting was key, conscious lyrics reigned supreme and reggae music was live and full of soul & Dancehall was in its infancy and still resembled reggae, unlike its mostly American hip-hop and R&B influences today. So sit back, take a heavy drink -- its 100% organic -- and soak up reggae's energy, strength, and soul with our cure-all: KING DJANGO's Roots Tonic on JUMP UP/Stubborn Records (USA)/Bacteria Buffet Records (Canada)/Ska In The World Records (Japan)!

King Django always keeps busy and always has a surprise or two up his sleeve. Drawing on such diverse influences as roots reggae, dancehall, ska, rock, soul, swing, and American and Yiddish folk music, he has always been a hard man to pigeonhole. His versatility within genres of punk, rhythm & blues, and Jamaican grooves is unmatched, starting early as the singer / trombonist of legendary NYC ska band The Boilers (1986-1988), evolving through reggae/soul/punk/jazz experimentalists Skinnerbox (1989-1998), and achieving mainstream recognition as the founder and leader of traditional ska supergroup Stubborn All-Stars (1994-1999). After the ska revival died down, King Django was able to devote his full energy to solo material: "Roots and Culture" (Triple Crown Records, 1998) combined ska, reggae and traditional klezmer music; while "Reason" (Hellcat / Epitaph, 2001) was an adventurous, eclectic self-produced album of rock deeply grounded in roots-reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, and drum and bass. In late 2003, King Django headed to Switzerland to record King Django Meets The Scrucialists, unleashing twelve brilliant slices of political roots reggae, rockers, dub, lovers rock, ska and dancehall, including two combinations with German ska/dancehall superstar Dr. Ring Ding.

In 2003 and 2004, Django hit the road in support of three releases on three different independent labels. A Single Thread, an 11-year career retrospective, which saw release in three countries (Megalith Records, USA/Ska In The World, Japan/Leech, Switzerland) presents an overview of Django’s range of style and capabilities. In 2003, King Django headed to Europe to record King Django meets the Scrucialists (Jump Up Records, Chicago/Leech, Switzerland). These sessions unleashed the true lyrical genius that has been inside Django all this time. The result was twelve brilliant slices of political roots reggae, rockers, dub, lovers rock, ska and dancehall, including two combinations with German ska/dancehall superstar Dr. Ring DingThe American release also includes two exclusive dancehall versions created with the hottest new riddims coming straight out of Jamaica. Version City Sessions (Asian Man Records, California) showcases Django’s talents as a producer, engineer and remix artist.

King Django has toured internationally many times over as a solo artist, as the leader of Skinnerbox and Stubborn All Stars and as trombonist for Rancid, The Toasters, and legendary New York City hardcore band Murphy's Law.In the studio, he has worked closely with fellow NYC pals the The Slackers and Skadanks and recorded with Tim Armstrong, Lars Fredrickson and Matt Freeman of Rancid and Dicky Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones on Stubborn All Stars’ Back with A New Batch in 1997 (Triple Crown).

At about the same time, Django began collecting studio equipment and soon the legendary Version City was born. Within months, a steady flow of bands flocked to this NY mecca to create warm Jamaican vibes with Django's knowledge, production and engineering skills.<>


Chris Murray is a unique force on today's music scene. As leader of influential Canadian ska group King Apparatus, Chris earned a strong reputation as a dynamic performer and gifted songwriter. Upon the band's breakup, he relocated to Los Angeles, emerging as a solo artist with his debut album The 4-Track Adventures Of Venice Shoreline Chris. This charmingly lo-fi collection of home recordings won high praise for its finely crafted tunes and the raw sincerity of its vintage production.

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