On the 30th anniversary of his passing, Jeb salutes the incomparable Jackie Mittoo.
Henry The Great
The hills feel, this morning, fog addled; we’ve had a week of heavy mists and grey days; birds flit like black flecks; there’s no clouds or sun; you can’t see more than twenty feet. From my window I watch a translucent wall hover over the pond, creeping in and retreating, swirling between the just-visible plants.
It feels a long way away, a million miles, from Jamaica. Or from Brooklyn. It feels a long way from anywhere.
In 1988 I returned to New York for a couple months, and as I always do, I spent my time in book shops and record stores. One trip I made was out to the furthest corner of Brooklyn to see Coxone Dodd, owner of Studio One Records, in his record store. Studio One was a primary cornerstone of Jamaican music; ska, rock steady, reggae; Bob Marley, Lee Perry, Burning Spear, Toots and The Maytals, it had all come from Studio One. Coxone maintained an erratic scedule between his shop in Brooklyn and his studio in Jamaica; twice I’d been to his shop and twice I’d just missed him. This time he was in. I looked through the stacks, put a few things aside and we started talking about music. I told him I was from the mid-west and had lived in Texas; he talked about his love of country music. We talked about Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, and Willie Nelson. We talked about New Orleans and about Muscle Shoals. He took me into the basement where he had boxes of obscure singles and LPs that no one wanted. We agreed that the Lennie Hibbert LP Creation was one of our favourites.
I can’t give it away, he said sadly.
Another favourite was Love Me Forever by Carlton And The Shoes.
Nothing in the world sweeter than that, he said.
I agreed. When I picked up a copy of Macka Fat by Jackie Mittoo he took it from me and said, he was the backbone. He made it all happen. He was the best.
He looked around the room and said, pure genius. Everything he did. Still now. Best player I ever heard. Him the king.
So this one’s for Jackie Mittoo, The Keyboard King, who died thirty years ago this week. I’ll leave the final word to Coxone Dodd (writing on an early press release for the Jackie Mittoo LP Evening Time): Come feel the cool beat of Mr. Jackie Mittoo! Let him take you on a musical trip through the hippest sounds of today. Girls in bikinis, hipsters, youths and oldsters too – they all dig the big pleasure and sensational sound of Summer In Jamaica. Mr. Mittoo is the new Ruler!
You can follow the Jeb’s Jukebox Spotify playlist here.