Moondust Records

Rocket to Reggae City

David Hillyard & The Rocksteady 7David Hillyard, for the past 20 + years has been dancing into the dark parts of the globe as one of the main architects of the world touring Ska/ Reggae outfit The Slackers and as leader of his own Miles Davis inspired Reggae Jazz hybrid The Rocksteady 7.

“Bandleader, composer and saxophonist David Hillyard has done more to advance the mix of reggae and jazz…than any number of big names in jazz who have tinkered with the Jamaican Sound” – The African Beat Magazine

Tenor and soprano saxophonist, David Hillyard is one of the innovators of the American ska scene. His group, the Rocksteady 7, mixes instrumental Jamaican “roots” rhythms ala the Skatalites, Burning Spear, and extended jazz improvisation ala David Murray, Charlie Haden, and Pharaoh Saunders.

Dave has been a professional musician for over 20 years. As a 17 year old youth he played with The Donkey Show, one of California’s pioneering ska bands. He also played with Hepcat which went onto become one of the biggest ska acts of the 1990’s. He has also performed with ska groups like the Stubborn All-Stars, Skinner box, reggae artists like Cornell Campbell, Congo ‘Ashanti’ Roy and Johnny Osbourne, jazz artists like Roy Campbell, blues artists like Simon Chardiet, soul singers like Archie Bell (“Do the Tighten Up”), and even punkrockers like Rancid.

But Dave is best known for his work with the Slackers who continue to blaze around the globe with their brand of Ska Reggae goodness.

Through his diverse experience, Dave has developed an unique style. A mix of the warm island tonalities of Roland Alphonso and Tommy McCook, the strident cries of John Coltrane, the smears of Sidney Bechet, the other-worldliness of Pharaoh Saunders, the honking blues of King Curtis, and the swing of Ben Webster, Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins.

David HIllyardHis band, Rocksteady 7, is a shifting collective of musicians featuring some of the best players in New York City. They have experience playing with everyone from Sting to the Skatalites. Senior among them is veteran percussionist, Larry McDonald.

Larry began his career back at the inception of ska music with Carlos Malcolm’s Afro Jamaicans. He went on to perform on such classic reggae tracks as “Cherry Oh Baby”, “Funky Kingston”, and “Rivers of Babylon”. Then he left Jamaica and played long stints with Taj Mahal and Gil Scott-Heron.

The Rocksteady 7’s debut release ‘Playtime’ was released by Hellcat/Epitaph and widely praised for its innovative mix of Jamaican “roots” rhythms with Jazz and Latin influences. The title track, “Playtime”, was nyabinghi drumming mashed up Miles Davis-esque jazz. It was heavily played on the National Public Radio show, “Morning Becomes Eclectic.”

They then followed that up with a set titled ‘United Front’ (Do Tell/Brixton) that mixed free improvisation, reggae, and revolutionary rhetoric. The African Beat magazine referred to the group as “real musical revolutionaries” and stated that they “cut the competition.” Ragga magazine referred to them as “the magnificent 7.”

Their 3rd release, ‘Way Out East’ (Brixton), captured the powerful live energy of the band in Jena, Germany.

‘Get Back Up!’ their fourth release was a blinding tour de force of his Jamaican Jazz conception. The title track evokes the power of Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” and is a screaming triumph over adversity. Through the baldhead reggae of “Death Ride”, to the Brazillian Bingi, “Ca Purange”, and a confident ska version of the 60’s classic, “Sunny”, Dave and his friends are at the top of their game.

Dave then put out a Japanese-only release in 2009 entitled “Hits of Jackpot” that featured Dave playing over classic Bunny Lee and Lloyd Charmers rhythms. It was even produced by Glen Adams of Wailers and Upsetters fame! How’s that for a pedigree?

This new single features another trademark Jazz Reggae hybrid of epic proportions. It features a darkly horn workout of the Howling Wolf classic “Evil” in two parts.

David Hillyard – Tenor Saxophone
Larry McDonald – Congas
Eddie Ocampo – Drums
Dan Jeselsohn – Bass
Justin Rothberg – Guitar
Rich Graiko – Trumpet
Phil Cooper – Trombone
David Wake – Organ

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