Ska legends The Skatalites are paying tribute to trombone player Rico Rodriguez in a new track, “Requiem for Rico,” premiering today on Billboard.
“Rico was one of the first men to play something called ska and went on to become a major mogul in Jamaican popular music,” Skatalites’ keyboardist Ken Stewart tells Billboard. “He continued his career in the UK with The Specials and Jools Holland, and continued performing worldwide with various artists right up until his death [last September in London at age 80].”
Rodriguez is perhaps most widely known from his playing on “A Message to You, Rudy,” (both the original Dandy Livingstone version and the Specials hit cover)
The trombonist was born in Havana to a Cuban father and Jamaican mother and grew up in Jamaica. At school, he became friends with future members of the Skatalites, especially the late trombonist Don Drummond, who was a mentor to him.
“The title of the song was picked by us to pay homage to a man who inspired us all both musically and spiritually,” says Stewart, who wrote the track with trombonist Andrae Murchison. “We were all honored to know him and have played with him.”
“Requiem for Rico” previews Platinum Ska, the band’s new album set for release in April, the first recording to follow The Skatalites 50th anniversary celebrations in 2014. The album captures drummer Lloyd Knibb’s last recording before his death in 2011. It also features alto sax player Lester Sterling, the last living original Skatalites member in the band’s current line up.
“This album has brand new compositions by the current members and also a version of the classic rocksteady song “Consider Me” voiced by the ‘Queen of Ska’ Doreen Schaffer as a tribute to Jennifer Lara,” Skatalite saxophonist Azemobo Audu reveals.
Platinum Ska was mixed in Mali and includes guest appearances by legendary Malian musicians Assaba Dramé and Madou Sidiki Diabaté. It is accompanied by a complete set of dub remixes by Malian musician and producer Manjul.
The Skatalites will perform at the Skanking Reggae Festival in Los Angeles in March, and at Austin’s Reggae Fest in April.