809 Band regroups for ‘Jazz’

809 Band regroups for ‘Jazz’

Jazz Notes

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicabserver.com

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

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THE 809 Band, one of Jamaica's most noted backing bands, will be regrouping for this year's staging of Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival.

The three-day festival is scheduled for the Trelawny Multi-Purpose Stadium on January 30 to February 1.

Formed in the 1980s, the band was named after Jamaica's original telephone area code. Its formidable aggregation included reggae's leading singers and players of instruments such as Mikey Fletcher on bass, drummer Paul Kastick, Christopher Birch on keyboards, Leebert 'Gibby' Morrison, and Winston 'Boo Pee' Bowen on guitar. The sound was further enhanced by an impressive horn section, collectively known as Rass Brass, led by Dean Fraser on saxophone, Ronald 'Nambo' Robinson, and Junior 'Chico' Chin on trumpet. Vocalist Desi Young, current president of the Jamaica Federation of Musicians, completed the set.

The 809's reunion is the brainchild of long-time artiste manager and music industry insider Copeland Forbes, and will form part of the festival's tribute to reggae songstress Marcia Griffiths. This year, Griffiths celebrates her 50th anniversary in the music business.

"809 did a lot of work with Marcia during the 1980s and '90s," Forbes told the Jamaica Observer. "They were her backing band during a number of the Sunsplash tours to Europe and North America. So it just came to me, why not have them on this her first performance in what will be a year-long celebration," he continued.

The band last performed at Japansplash in 1995.

Bassist Fletcher, who joined 809 as a shy 24-year-old in 1987, said there is always a great vibe with the band members and so once this opportunity came up everybody just agreed to do it.

"We all still remember the music and everybody still plays and does their thing musically. I am really looking forward to hearing everybody again... that professionalism. I can't wait to hear that sound that hasn't been heard in a long time. It is gonna be a great show," Fletcher said.

In their heyday, 809 was the band of choice for musicians, including Bunny Wailer, Maxi Priest, the I-Three and Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers.

The Marcia Griffiths tribute will unfold on the January 30 opening night of the festival.

The tribute will see Griffiths performing her half-a-century of hits followed by a star-studded cavalcade of artistes who have either performed duets with her, or performing their favourite songs by the legendary singer.

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