Pete Clemons Coventry Telegraph article -
My introduction to Rico Rodriguez was, I guess, like many others of my age. It was during the mid to late 1970s.
I remember listening to an LP on the Island label and either the inner sleeve was covered in those ‘if you enjoy this, you will love these’ adverts, or the LP had an advertising insert within it.
Either way, it led my curiosity to an album called Man From Wareika.
I used to love, and still do to this day, listening to the Trojan Records label and those wonderful singles released during the late 1960s and 70s. But Man From Wareika was very different.
For me personally, it was an early introduction to the kind of reggae that had that incredibly distinctive rhythm section of heavy bass and highly tuned drums that would take the world of music by storm.
Man From Wareika, the first album recording for Rico Rodriguez, released in 1977
Also, what set Man From Wareika apart was that the lead was not taken by guitar, or a more traditional instrument. The lead instrument on this album was a trombone – but not played in a loud, brash, jazzy fashion. This trombone was blown in a more soulful, simmering and seductive way.
Wareika, as I understand, is a hilly area on the edge of Kingston, Jamaica. And it was where Rico grew up.
It was also where Rico had eked out a living as a session player, albeit though, on some very important records by some very influential artists and musicians.
In fact, between 1958 and 1961 he had been credited on around 100 songs.
Rico made his way to England in 1962. His mother had given him the money for the fare over. He had no family over here and only one friend when he arrived.
After settling he found a lot of work with producer Laurel Aitken.
Sometime later, during 1969, he released his first solo album, Reco in Reggae Land, which was effectively a tribute to Don Drummond, who had been a close friend and mentor back in Jamaica.
At around the age of 40, Rico was approached by Island Records with a view to becoming a session musician for them.
Recording duties led to his first visit back to Jamaica since arriving in England. Island Records put him in contact with a more diverse range of musicians and it was at this point, I guess, when Rico first crossed paths with Dick Cuthell, who was also working for the company as a recording engineer. Dick Cuthell was also very accomplished with brass instruments.
The association with Island Records would then, of course, lead to the creation of Rico’s own Man From Wareika album, mixed by Dick Cuthell, and released on that label. The release of his album lead to Rico and his band being asked to open for fellow countryman Bob Marley and his Wailers on their 1977 Exodus tour of Europe.
Rico Rodriguez (second left) with The Specials in 1979
To embellish a song, and fill it out, by adding the sound of extra instrumentation is down to pure vision. So the addition of brass instruments, by way of the introduction in 1979 of Rico Rodriguez, and slightly later, Dick Cuthell, into The Specials' own brand of music was, in hindsight, not just visionary but also a decision of total genius.
Not only was it a good move for The Specials but it also marked the beginning of a bond between Rico himself and the many people of Coventry who embraced the whole 2-Tone and Ska music revival scene. And, of course, it also brought Rico a whole new audience.
Rico once said: “I really enjoyed playing with them (The Specials), especially going to America and Europe, all over, Dublin and Belfast and Ireland and Wales. It was good.”
In 1982, Rico returned to the Wareika Hills where he would stay for the next eight years. The following year however and more chart success followed. This time with a song that had been recorded before he left for Jamaica.
Paul Young had recorded a version of the song Love of the Common People but it failed to chart. It was only when Paul’s next single, Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home), hit the charts that the public at large revisited Common People.
Leaving Jamaica towards the end of the 1980s was not a straight-forward affair but one of the things that did happen was that Rico was invited, by Swiss musicians, to work on a reggae project in Europe. Around the same time he also met a Japanese musician called Kuubo, who specialized in reggae, and had been staying in Jamaica.
This was the beginning of huge affection for Rico in Japan. From all account the Japanese audience really took Rico to their hearts.
When, eventually, Rico returned to England work was now becoming more plentiful. He hooked up with a band called Jazz Jamaica.
Then from there, and from 1996 through to 2012, Rico became a member of Jools Holland and his much loved Rhythm and Blues Orchestra.
For 16 years Rico had the time of his life performing on annual tours and playing at a host of spectacular gigs and venues. Included was several visits to Warwick Arts Centre.
During his lifetime, Rico Rodriguez appears to have touched an awful lot of people. That is clearly evident to see by the amount of moving tributes I have read from close friends and fellow musicians alike. He also touched his listeners who enjoyed hearing him play.
One such tribute, in the form of a poem, was penned by Coventry-born poet, Trev Teasdel.
Born in Rico’s Trombone
I was born in Rico’s trombone, a raw note, bold with vibrato, with a message for rude boys.
Original article http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/whats-on/music/tribute-rico-rodriguez-specials-trombonist-10085498