Tommy McCook Dubbing with Horns[Jamaican Recordings, 2011]

Sure, you probably know the name Tommy McCook from his days in ska, but you may not have heard much about him post-Skatalites. Fortunately, though, he did move onward, and I daresay upward, settling comfortably into the rich reggae of the 1970s – which is the period represented on Dubbing With Horns. Naturally McCook’s tenor sax remained as sophisticated, as jazz-influenced as ever, which these 18 dub tracks do nothing to disguise. In fact I’d say his playing doesn’t merely shine through the dub, loud and clear, but illuminates it – something to do with the dub genre’s improvisational approach that happens to be shared with ska and jazz.

The Jamaican Recordings label has released quite a bunch of remarkable dub albums lately – such delights as the recent Dub Treasures from The Black Ark – and this new disc has to be one of their most enjoyable. Don’t listen for vocals, however, or even fragments of such, because in this case they’re all instrumental dubs. But admit it, going an hour without hearing the human voice has its appeal at times. And if the dub that’s at play here is more tasteful than adventurous, well, that can be okay too.

One more thing: although the source material is ostensibly the roots reggae mentioned above, jazz lovers will recognize the real origins of a number of the melody lines (if not the riddims) including the Dave Brubeck Quartet standard “Take Five.” Whatever the origins, whatever the filters, whatever the enhancements, this is sweet stuff, all of it.