Music: Songs In The Key Of Life – Jah Bass

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JAH BASS is a Tralee composer, arranger, bassist and guitarist with Irish Dub Reggae/Jazz group Avatar. Here he picks the music which has shaped his life.

“When I was ten or eleven around 1971/72, I remember hearing James Moody playing ‘Phil Up’ from his 1956 album ‘Moody’s Mood For Love’.

I can remember just being fascinated by the sound of his playing. The music was fast but to me time seemed to slow down as I listened to the melody. I first heard this at home. I would sit down and listen, totally wrapped up in the sound. This early exposure to Jazz has greatly influenced the music I write for my own Reggae/Jazz group AVATAR.

My first venture into rock music came around my thirteenth birthday in 1973. As a present I had been given a record voucher for a shop called The Discassette. I remember literally running down town.

I bought an album by Rory Gallagher (as I had heard some of the older musicians talking about him) called Deuce. The track’ Used To Be’ began a lifelong passion for Rory’s wonderful music.

I was lucky enough to see him live on many occasions. He never sold out and was always true to himself and his vision. He is someone I really look up to and admire.

I was fourteen( 1975) when I first heard Reggae music. I picked up Bob Marley and The Wailer’s Live. I didn’t have a clue who or what it was. I just thought the cover looked really cool. Fortunately I decided on impulse to take a chance and buy it. I can still remember my reaction when Trenchtown Rock came out of the speakers.

I was blown away to say the least. This music seemed to have everything I loved. Wicked bass playing, incredible grooves ,fantastic songs and melodies, brilliant lyrics (thought I didn’t get all the patois then) e.t.c.

To a fourteen year old teenager living in Tralee at that time it was a revelation.

I first heard The Specials around 1983. I can remember one evening sitting down and chatting with two friends. Both were unemployed with no future in Ireland. Both faced the boat to England. In the background ‘Do Nothing’ was playing. For me no other tune has ever managed to depict the hopelessness of that era so aptly. It’s a fantastic song from one of my favorite bands.

The ’80’s & ’90’s were a time when vinyl record shops were thriving. I often went to the UK to buy albums. There were amazing Reggae shops and booths in the markets all over London. It was during one of these many record buying trips that I first discovered an Agustus Pablo album called ‘King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown’. It is one of my favourite albums, featuring as it does tracks written by Pablo and engineered by the great King Tubby.

Rico Rodriguez’s music has had a massive influence on me over the years. He fuses Reggae and Jazz exactly the way I like it. I met him with Paul Heskett when we were at The Cornbury festival in the UK two years ago. It was a highlight in my life. Tracey, Rico’s wife told me her mum comes from Listowel, so there’s another wonderful Jamaican /UK/Irish link.

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