While the Northeast is still digging out from yet another snowstorm, I figured I’d drop it like it’s hot, specifically something from Jamaica. For a while I have always tried to dig up some of this stuff out in the field. Honestly, it doesn’t show up that much. Especially this Jamaica to Canada connection, which I find fascinating for one, and has definitely been captured here. So yes it’s Jamaican, and well, it did start out at some hot beaches, but ended up cold in Canada. The point I’m trying to make, as confusing as it sounds, is that the music is red hot. This particular musician is one of my faves. Here’s Jackie Mittoo with “You’ll Never Find” off of the LP The Keyboard King on Magna Sound Records from 1976.
Donat Roy Mitto was born in 1948 in Browns Town, Jamaica. Starting on the keyboards at an extremely early age (four!), Mittoo always remained close to a piano or keyboards during his teenage years. He would go on to play in bands such as the Vikings and Vagabonds. The guy loved music so much that he often did not go to school, opting to play at Federal Studios instead. We all know that this would eventually pay off, don’t we? It was here he was asked by the famous Coxsone Dodd to play in the house band. Mittoo progressed on to college, where he hooked up with a young Augustus Pablo to perform in a group known as the Jackie Mitree. Moving on to the group the Cavalier Orchestra aka the Sheiks, Mitto would eventually get the call from Dodd again in 1962, when Studio One opened it’s doors. Jackie served as the music director, arranging and advising nearly everything the Studio put out. It was here he would form a bond with Tommy McCook, Johnny Moore, and Lester Sterling, leading to the formation of one of the most influential Ska bands, The Skatalites. Although the group only lasted a little over a year (with a short stint of Don Drummond), it is quite evident that the influence they had on Reggae music as a band was huge. I’d like to track down my man King Bravo this Spring at the Spot to see if he could give me some insight on Jackie and the Skatalites. I’ll keep you posted on that. After the Skatalites, Mittoo went solo. All the while he kept an almost unheard of pace with Studio One, churning out at least 5 or more tunes a week. Do the math, Jackie Mittoo put out thousands of compositions, this guy is a monster. From the Wailers to Freddie McGregor to Marcia Griffiths to Frankie Paul, Mitto has contributed to them all. In 1968, Jackie relocated to Toronto, and while still keeping ties close with Kingston, Jamaica, he would be a part of the movement I mentioned in the intro. Jackie Mittoo would die in Canada in 1990 of Cancer. His legacy lives on, through songs such as “Hot Milk”, “Darker Shade of Black” (some of my favorites), and of course this Lou Rawls cover.
Mittoo’s keyboard prowess is featured on this side, as he strolls through an often dubbed out version of Lou Rawls. It is indeed Soulful as it is beautiful. While not hard hitting, it showcases the man’s talents as well as Ansle Collins on Piano, Sly Dunbar on Drums, Robert Shakespeare on Bass, Earle Smith and Alias Chinner on Guitar, and Bo-Pete and Tony Chin on Rhythm Guitars. The labels, is Magna Sounds Records out of Markham, Ontario, but the record itself is labeled TWS 501, which I can only interpret as Third World Sound. It’s interesting really, that the Canada to Jamaica Connection went on, but honestly, it could have been Jamaica to Calcutta and Jackie Mittoo would have been making these great songs. Stay warm and Keep Diggin’!