Bobby Ellis is dead

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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Bobby Ellis, the influential trumpeter who played on a number of groundbreaking Jamaican songs, died Tuesday at age 84.


His daughter, Cheryl Ellis, told the Jamaica Observer that her father died at the University Hospital of the West Indies. He was admitted there on September 27 to treat a pneumonia-related illness.


Born in Kingston, Ellis was a past student of Alpha Boys School and a contemporary of other Alpha alumni who went on to greatness. They included saxophonists Tommy McCook and Headley Bennett and trombonist Don Drummond.


Like most Alpha ‘hornsmen’, Ellis had a prolific career as a session musician and arranger. He played on songs like Higgs and Wilson’s There’s A Reward For Me and I Wanna Go Back Home by Bob Andy.


In 1974, he was a senior member of the Black Disciples band that played on Burning Spear’s acclaimed Marcus Garvey
album.


Ellis arranged the horns on the title track as well as Slavery Days . He was a key member of Spear’s recording and touring unit for the next 12 years.


He and McCook also played and arranged the horns for Blackheart Man, Bunny Wailer’s classic 1976 album.


Ellis was among several top Jamaican musicians who played on renowned jazz flautist Herbie Mann’s Reggae and Reggae II albums in the early 1970s.


In 2014 Ellis was awarded the Order of Distinction (Officer class) by the Jamaican Government for his contribution to the country’s music.


In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, he expressed gratitude at finally receiving national recognition.


"I always think of it yuh nuh...if I can get an award or something like that for music. So I thank God for it," he said.


Bobby Ellis is survived by three daughters, two sons and grandchildren.


His funeral service is scheduled for November 12 at 10 am St Richard’s Church.


— Howard Campbell

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