I was very honored to be part of the horn section for the legendary dub reggae producer, Lee “Scratch” Perry, as part of the Red Bull Music Academy’s “NYC In Dub” at Le Poisson Rouge last week. I had first heard Lee’s name around when I first started getting into reggae music. Specifically, when I decided that I liked the older, classic Bob Marley recordings that were make in Jamaica before he blew up as an international star. Lee Perry was responsible for some of these recordings, and his unique stylings and production techniques lend a very special quality to these old recordings. If you know anything about Bob Marley, there’s a good chance you know how important Lee Perry’s influence was in the creation of that music.
Flash forward about 50 years: Lee is 77 years old. He is known for his creatively flamboyant outfits and his sometimes very strange on-stage persona. He’s had a string of recent performances as a front man with various different backing ensembles, like the one I was a part of. Last year, I saw him and friends Sinkane perform at Williamsburg Music Hall and I was BLOWN AWAY. I told a lot of people this, but I thought it was the best concert I saw all year. He was backed up by Troy Simms and Omar Little of Brooklyn’s Mobius Collective on alto sax and trumpet, respectively, a killer DJ who called himself Emch, the legendary reggae percussionist Larry McDonald, and a bass player. When I told Troy how much I enjoyed the show, he told me they had actually talked about including a trombone player in the section, and asked if I was available on May 30th to perform with them at LPR.
As I learned more about the gig, I found out that Emch is musically in charge of the set and has been working with Lee for a while. His stage name is Subatomic Sound System, and his music and production skills are very sharp and worth checking out. We actually held a rehearsal in his cozy Lower East Side apartment, and I could tell it was going to be a fantastic show to be a part of. Emch has to deal with a lot of stuff as Lee “Scratch” Perry’s musical director, and he handles it very gracefully and professionally. He’s a true professional and it was an honor to be part of his team.
The gig was an extremely fun and rewarding experience, and it represents a benchmark “bucket list” performance for me. As an added treat, dub legend Adrian Sherwood performed onstage, which was the first time Adrian and Lee have performed together in the US. Above is a picture of Lee on stage as we were performing, and below is a picture of the horn section, the “dub select horns.” I look forward to the next time we get to make music together.