Born: October 17, 1934 Primary Instrument: Trombone
One of the most prolific session players of Jamaica's pre- ska era, trombonist Rico Rodriguez recorded both as a solo artist and as an honorary member of The Specials. He is a highly regarded musician both in England and his homeland of Jamaica.
Born Emmanuel Rodriguez on October 17, 1934, in Kingston, his musical pursuits began while attending Kingston's Alpha Boys School, an institution for wayward boys, where he studied trombone under the legendary Don Drummond. From 1954 to 1957 Rico continued his musical education at Stoney Hill Music School. During these years his musical influences were the two jazz trombonists J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding.
He went on to do recordings with various session groups, namely Clue J & The Blues Blasters, Count Ossie's Group, Smith All Stars, Drumbago And His Orchestra and for all the important producers - Clement Dodd, Duke Reid, Vincent Chin, Lloyd Daley - and as Rico's Group or All Stars for Prince Buster. Duke Reid and Vincent Chin engaged him for their very first recordings. Chin produced Rico's first sides under his own name: Rico Special and later Rico Farewell the second as his goodbye to Jamaica and shortly after released in the UK by the young Island Records label, where he relocated in ’61.
Landing in the UK, he recorded a number of sides for the Island label and gigged extensively on the jazz and R&B circuits, playing with Georgie Fame's Blue Flames and others. He also remained a top-notch session man, appearing on Sugar & Dandy's 1967 classic A Message to You Rudy, among others.
Finally, in 1969 two LPs had been released with Rico as the featured artist: “Rico in Reggaeland” (on Pama) “Blow Your Horn” (Trojan) and another one with him as mayor soloist “Brixton Cat,” credited to Joe's All Stars and released by Trojan.
Despite maintaining a permanent residence in Britain, Rico held fast to his strong Rastafarian beliefs, and Island frequently paid for him to return to Kingston to record with the city's most prominent session players; while his forte remained jazz, he adapted brilliantly to any environment, and applied his improvisational skills to productions from notables including Sly & Robbie.
In 1977, Rico also cut the now classic solo LP “Man from Wareika,” it was followed a year later by “Midnight in Ethiopia.” In 1979, he appeared on The Specials' cover of A Message to You Rudy, and soon joined the band as a virtual full-time member. Again as Rico, he also cut another pair of solo LPs on 2 Tone, 1981's “That Man Is Forward” and its 1982 follow-up “Jama.”
Session work was then primary focus for over a decade, but in the mid-1990s Rodriguez returned with a number of solo projects, among them 1995's “Roots to the Bone” and 1997's “Tribute to Don Drummond.”
From 1996 on Rico had a permanent engagement with Jools Holland, he recorded new CDs, partly with old material, played regularly in Europe, South America (Argentina) and in Japan and supported several young bands.
In 2004 Trojan Records released a 2CD box to commemorate Rico’s 70th birthday on Oct. 17: “Trombone Man” uncovers some gems never reissued before. New albums appeared in 2006: “Japa Rico” (after Jama Rico in 1982) and “Wareika Vibes.”
Thanks to Geoffrey Philp, Jamaican author.
Source: Jason Ankeny & R.P. Braunov