"Stone Valley (Dub)" - Vin Gordon
The sun is setting into the Carribbean sky, and what have we learned? Vin Gordon came from the legendary Alpha Boys School, recorded with Lee Perry and Bob Marley as part of the original Wailers, was a prominent figure in the band, The Skatalites, and continues to teach masterclasses around the world. We have a better understanding of roots reggae music, dub, ska, and rocksteady. But what have we learned about the trombone?
I am having a hard time pinpointing the aspect of his playing that has made him such a legendary player. This album may not be the best of example of his work, and you may have to dig through the crates (or YouTube) to find the recordings that made him famous, like Musical Bones, or under the pseudonym, Don Drummond, Jr. In addition, you may want to learn why he has been mistaken for Rico Rodriguez, another legendary reggae trombonist.
The fact is that within Jamaican music the melody trumps and rhythm ignites. Gordon's tunes usually have a strong melody based on simple riffs, while his solos explore the sonic boundaries of the horn by using rhythmic effects. By combining these two elements, this album showcases his broad range of technique. But is it relevant? What are we supposed to take from it?
Summer has landed in Chicago. While it is technically still winter, the weather has been sunny and in the 80 degree range, and it does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. Outside, the people are ecstatic to be free from their confined dwellings, and the full spectrum of humans are on parade. The women reveal their shape, and the men become lazy in their choice of attire.
And as I have been out walking around in the warm air, watching the sun disappear on the horizon during the golden hour, with a slight buzz of alcohol running through my system, I get it. Gordon's music is for Jamaica, it is a product of the environment and reflects its culture. Is it interesting? Eh. Does it really matter? No. All that is desired on a perfect evening is the human touch, in the form of a vocalized melody, and the slight delirium that comes from inhibition, the flexing of time and space. Perfect nights like these can not be replicated, they just exist, somehow, for our own pleasure. Where's that music coming from? And where's the rum?
Practice your long tones, kids.
Here's a decent YouTube video interview of Vin Gordon on Jamaican television. The audio is not too great, and this is also why solo trombone just doesn't work. Enjoy!
Recommended Reading: Exercises And Etudes For The Jazz Instrumentalist by J.J. Johnson. Published by Hal Leonard.