We Will Wait by Blue Glaze Mento Band

Blue Glaze Mento Band

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Album Reviews

"For all those wondering where the bawdy lyrical bents and sociological explorations of Jamaican music originated, this wonderful collection of mento-era updates, anchored timelessly by some of its foundation artists, will answer your questions. Toots Hibbert and Bunny Wailer reveal their indebtedness to the pre-reggae roots music of Jamaica's country folk, mourning their dead, praising their maker and laughing at the humorous folly of man's sexual pecadillos. A refreshing surprise and important addition to the canon."

Roger Steffens, Co-Chairman, Reggae Grammy Committee


Before ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub or dancehall, Jamaica gave us mento. It was and is the music affiliated with the island’s rural regions, and like the calypso music from elsewhere in the Caribbean, mento is a melodic examination of topical matters, cultural concerns, longstanding traditions and human quirks. There’s likely to be a few cheerfully bawdy lyrics in the picture as well, albeit with a subtlety that makes warning stickers unnecessary.
The Blue Glaze Mento Band have been masters of the style since 1967 but haven’t recorded many albums, so this new release of theirs is a must for anyone wanting an earful of delightfully deep Jamaican roots. And I’m talking real roots.
The instrumentation is an all-acoustic mash of guitars, banjo, percussion and anchoring rhumba box providing low end in place of a bass. Such an array is precisely what’s needed to accompany the rustic, comfortably worn lead vocals of front man and main composer Vernal Morgan as he weighs in on celebratory matters (“Wheel and Turn Me,” “Skanking Mood”), everyday struggles (“Suffering Time”) and humorous anecdotes (“Parson, Don’t Bury the Man,” “Mo Bay Chinaman,” “Night Food”).
Some heavyweight guest artists give the whole affair even more of a classic feel, including Stranger Cole providing suitably resilient singing for his composition “Rough and Tough,” Toots Hibbert in finest gospel mode on “Great Jehovah” and Bunny Wailer likewise calling out to a higher power on the title track. While such names suggest that reggae fans will find enjoyment in this album, the jaunty, thumping rhythms (seasoned throughout by another esteemed guest, percussionist Sticky Thompson) assure as much. For all its vintage shadings, We Will Wait sounds perfectly fresh and ready to provide repeated listening pleasure.

Thomas Orr
Visit World Music Central


Bill Monsted has a two-word reply for The Sunday Gleaner when he is asked why he has produced a mento album. "Why not?" he asked.
Three years in the making and edging up to a few months since it has been available to the public, We Will Wait is a 14-track album by Blue Glaze Mento Band with guest appearances by Toots Hibbert (Great Jehovah), Bunny Wailer (We Will Wait) and Strangejah Cole on his own (Rough and Tough).
Among the other tracks are Big Boy and Teacher, Slide Mongoose, Parson Don't Bury the Man, Skanking Mood and Jamaica Land.
Monsted quickly expands on the off-the-cuff response. "I have been listening to mento ever since I was a child. My parents brought mento records from Jamaica," he said. Those 1950s and '60s trips to Round Hill in Hanover and Ocho Rios, St Ann, sowed the seed that saw Monsted doing three sessions with Blue Glaze. The first, at Tuff Gong, came out of a documentary he was a part of.
"We wanted to record one of the groups in the studio. We recorded about four or five songs and it came out very well. We thought we had the foundation for a record," Monsted said, "not strictly mento."
They did. Although originally the plan was to have several more Jamaican guest artistes than the three who eventually appeared. Still, Monsted is happy with the product and points out that it is not a strictly mento CD, as there are other Jamaican music elements to it.
"It is interesting music to me. I like it," he said, not only of We Will Wait, but mento in general. As for him being based in New Orleans, Louisiana, and producing a band from May Pen, Jamaica, Monsted says "there are similarities between Jamaican mento and Dixieland", the banjo being a common element.
The Jolly Boys' album, Great Expectation, came out between the start of Monsted's project with Blue Glaze and its release, and Monsted points to the Portland group's success, including a European tour. However, touring may not be an option for Blue Glaze at this point, having lost key members in recent years. He readily admits that it is difficult to get exposure without touring, but is comforting that the music is available via the Internet and says "the interest in Bunny and Toots might hold over into the band".
And Monsted is confident that "people are more interested in roots, folk music now than they were 15 years ago. I think it is natural, blending the original forms with like reggae".

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Read the Article: 'We Will Wait' - For Mento - New Orleans Producer Works With Blue Glaze

About the Band & Album

Listening to the Blue Glaze Mento Band is like listening into the Jamaican countryside. Or to be more precise, like listening into the villages just north of May Pen, the capitol of Clarendon parish, where over 40 years ago this group formed. The product of a life lived in sylvan hill and dale, few traditional groups have for so long maintained such a high level of sustained musical excellence and critical success. Today, Blue Glaze is rightly considered one of mento’s most important bands.

And yet, despite its connectedness to Clarendon, the Blue Glaze story actually begins in the parish of Portland. Born in Main Ridge and raised in May Pen, clarinetist Vincent Pryce moved to Portland in 1960 to cut sugar cane. Shortly after his arrival, he founded a small mento band with some of his co-workers and named it Blue Glaze, simply because he liked the way the words sounded together. Quite unlike any of the other area mento bands, the small measure of renown Blue Glaze accrued around the Parish ultimately led to its high point: an invitation to play at a concert celebrating Jamaica’s independence in 1962.

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Listening to the Blue Glaze Mento Band is like listening into the Jamaican countryside. Or to be more precise, like listening into the villages just north of May Pen, the capitol of Clarendon parish, where over 40 years ago this group formed. The product of a life lived in sylvan hill and dale, few traditional groups have for so long maintained such a high level of sustained musical excellence and critical success. Today, Blue Glaze is rightly considered one of mento’s most important bands.

And yet, despite its connectedness to Clarendon, the Blue Glaze story actually begins in the parish of Portland. Born in Main Ridge and raise in May Pen, clarinetist Vincent Pryce moved to Portland in 1960 to cut sugar cane. Shortly after his arrival, he founded a small mento band with some of his co-workers and named it Blue Glaze, simply because he liked the way the words sounded together. Quite unlike any of the other area mento bands, the small measure of renown Blue Glaze accrued around the Parish ultimately led to its high point: an invitation to play at a concert celebrating Jamaica’s independence in 1962.

Independence was a turning point in Jamaica’s history. For mento musicians living in country, like Nelson Chambers of Thompson Town, it presented an opportunity for people to hear “real” Jamaican music as it was played outside of Kingston and Montego Bay. Chambers always had great faith in his country’s music. Like Pryce, Chambers grew up in a musical family and learned to play banjo as a youth. In the 1950s and early 1960s, he played around the villages north of May Pen and built a reputation as an exceptional mento musician. But when independence came, fortune intervened. The Mocho Community Center quadrille band of which Chambers was a member was invited to Kingston to perform.

Although separated by only a valley in their youth, it was at this independence concert that Pryce and Chambers first met, and an immediate bond formed between them. When Pryce left Portland in 1964 and dissolved the original Blue Glaze band, he returned to Clarendon and reestablished contact with Chambers. The two then joined a group called Seven Eleven and led it to first place finish in the 1965 national mento band competition. For two years, Seven Eleven set a strong musical example.

Then in 1967, band politics forced Pryce and Chambers out. Unhindered and undeterred, the two resolved to start their own band, resurrecting the Blue Glaze name and recruiting the best musicians the parish had to offer (including Kenneth Burrell, who appears on this recording). The newly reformed Blue Glaze immediately won the 1968 national mento band competition, in what would be an extremely auspicious start to an important chapter in mento music’s history. In the last 40-odd years, Blue Glaze has consistently ranked as one of the top three bands in national competition. It has recorded four albums (including two with reggae singer Stanley Beckford) and has been the go-to band for all manner of government-sponsored events. It has also represented Jamaica on cultural tours of Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, France, Germany, Italy, Martinique, Mexico, South Korea and the United States. The group’s service to the traditional was officially recognized in 1998 when the Institute of Jamaica awarded it the prestigious Musgrave Bronze Medal for Music in recognition of its preservation of ancestral rhythms.

When Pryce died in 2004, Chambers took over the band’s leadership. Under his steady hand, Chambers has been able to maintain the group’s high musical standard and commitment to tradition. On this album, Blue Glaze is joined by several guest artists, including Toots Hibbert, Stranger Cole, and Bunny Wailer, all of whom show they have mento in their blood. Together they revel in this music’s rawness and originality. In doing so they not only confirm Blue Glaze’s individual significance, but also the importance of mento in Jamaica’s music history.

Daniel T. Neely

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Recording Sessions

The Band (Click on each artist for a brief biography)


Nelson Chambers

Banjo


Kenneth Burrell

Rhumba Box


Vernal Morgan

Vocals, Percussion


Paul Stone

Bandleader
Guitar, Vocals

Nelson Chambers (October 11, 1944 - December 14, 2010) began playing guitar at 5 years of age, switching to ukulele banjo at age 10. Both of Chambers’ parents were musicians. He first played with Church of God in Thompson Town, Jamaica. He eventually formed the band Seven Eleven which won the national Mento competition in 1965 and then two years later co-founded Blue Glaze Mento Band. Chambers was a versatile musician who was adept at guitar, harp, mandolin, and tenor banjo. Chambers is well known for recording on early Rita Marley’s singles playing banjo.
Day Job: plumber
Favorite Artists: Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, Lord Flea, Lord Fly

Kenneth Burrell (born February 10, 1940) began playing ukulele banjo at age 10, then switched to guitar. Burrell began playing rhumba box in 1968 and soon took over playing that instrument with the Blue Glaze Mento Band.
Day Job: carpentry and masonry
Favorite Artist: Toots and the Maytals

Vernal Morgan (born April 20, 1951) began singing in 1961 when he was influenced by neighbor and future Ska sensation Derrick Morgan. In 1963 he recorded a song with Dennis Brown called Killing Jamaican Children. In the early 1970's, he recorded Lizard in My Bed at Duke Reid's Studio, which was then distributed by producer Ms. Sonia Pottinger. The fledgling team of Sly and Robbie also played on the track. He joined Blue Glaze Mento Band in 1996
Day Job: Contractor with the Jamaican Water Commission
Favorite Artist: Ray Charles

Paul Stone (born March 30, 1960) began playing in 1969 by learning how to play the ukulele banjo. Allen was taught by his uncle, Nelson Chambers, co-founder of the Blue Glaze Mento Band.
Day Job: Electronics repair
Favorite Artist: Dennis Brown

Samuel Feckleton (born October 31, 1962 in Clarendon, JA) started playing guitar at age 15 at school.
Day Job: Tailor
Favorite Artist: Bob Marley

Cosbert Allen (born January 1, 1949 in Clarendon, JA) lived near bandleader Nelson Chambers approximately 15 years ago. Even though Nelson was not a drummer he helped him learn how to play.
Day Job: Welder
Favorite Artist: Toots and the Maytals

Bill Monsted (born July 7, 1952 in New Orleans, LA) began travelling to Jamaica in 1972. Monsted began listening to and recording various mento bands in 2000. He spent many trips in Port Antonio and became familiar with The Jolly Boys who played at various hotels. In 2009, he began work on a documentary on mento music with director Rick Elgood (Dancehall Queen). While shooting interviews with several mento bands, Monsted began a recording project with Blue Glaze Mento Band, which was completed in 2010.
Day Job: Investment Planner
Favorite Artists: The Wailers (original band)

Thomas Hamilton (born July 11, 1955) had a very musical family to teach him guitar starting at age 11. Thomas began playing with the Blue Glaze Mento Band in 1983.
Day Job: Construction Worker
Favorite Artists: Gregory Isaacs


Thomas Hamilton

Guitar, Vocals


Samuel Feckleton

Guitar, Vocals, Percussion


Cosbert Allen

Drums

Guest Artists (Click on each artist to visit their website)


Toots Hibbert

Vocals


Bunny Wailer

Vocals


Stranger Cole

Vocals


Sticky Thompson

Percussion


Lee Jaffe

Harmonica

Unpictured Guest Artist: Dean Fraser (Horns)

We Will Wait Songlist

1. PARSON DON’T BURY THE MAN - A veteran of Miss Pottinger’s studio in the the 1970’s, Vernal Morgan sings a song about corrupt clergy.

Nelson ChambersBanjo
Vernal MorganLead vocals
Thomas HamiltonGuitar, Backup vocal
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Paul StoneGuitar
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonPercussion

2. MOMMY OUT DE LIGHT - Popular song from the 1950’s, perhaps influenced by Calypso

Paul StoneLead vocal
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Vernal MorganBackup vocal, percussion
Thomas HamiltonGuitar
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonPercussion
Lee JaffeHarmonica

3. GREAT JEHOVAH - Toots Hibbert and Vernal Morgan sing a gospel tune (written by Vernal Morgan). It is said that Jamaica has the most churches per capita, and it therefore follows that Gospel is often as close as your back door.

Toots HibbertVocals
Vernal MorganVocals
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Thomas HamiltonGuitar
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonPercussion

4. BIG BOY AND TEACHER - A classic mento song originally recorded by Alerth Bedasse and Chin’s Calypso Quartet in the 1950’s

Vernal MorganLead vocal
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Thomas HamiltonGuitar
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Paul StoneGuitar
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonHarmonica

5. LIZARD IN MY BED - A Vernal Morgan song about a woman who mistakenly consults an Obeah man

Vernal MorganVocals
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Thomas HamiltonGuitar, Backup vocal
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Paul StoneGuitar
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonPercussion
Lee JaffeHarmonica

6. SKANKING MOOD - "Skanking" has been defined as "a rhythmic dance performed to reggae or ska music..." A feel good song by Samuel Feckleton

Samuel FeckletonVocal, Percussion
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Paul StoneGuitar
Sticky ThompsonPercussion

7. ROUGH AND TOUGH - Rock Steady classic written and sung by Stranger Cole

Stranger ColeLead vocal
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Samuel FeckletonGuitar
Paul StoneGuitar
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonPercussion

8. WHEEL AND TURN ME - Traditional mento song

Vernal MorganVocals
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Thomas HamiltonGuitar, Backup vocal
Paul StoneGuitar
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonPercussion

9. JAMAICA LAND - A Thomas Hamilton song which promotes Jamaica in traditional mento fashion

Thomas HamiltonVocal, Guitar
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Paul StoneGuitar
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonPercussion

10. MOBAY CHINAMAN - This is an updated version of Count Lasher's humorous tale of cuckoldry.

Vernal MorganVocals
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Thomas HamiltonGuitar, Backup vocal
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Paul StoneGuitar
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonPercussion

11. SUFFERING TIME - A contemporary Vernal Morgan song about effects of economic hardship in Jamaica

Vernal MorganVocals
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Kenneth BurrellRhumba box
Samuel FeckletonGuitar, Backup vocals, percussion
Paul StoneGuitar
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonPercussion

12. NIGHT FOOD - A classic mento song originally recorded by Alerth Bedasse and Chin’s Calypso Quartet. Controversial in its day and what many felt brought on "slackness" in Jamaican music.

Vernal MorganVocals
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Samuel FeckletonGuitar, Backup vocals, percussion
Paul StoneGuitar
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonPercussion

13. WE WILL WAIT - Bunny Wailer sings this Rastafarian themed song by Vernal Morgan. "Jah gone prepare a place / For I and I my brother/ For I and I my sister/ That where he is we'll be there also"

Bunny WailerVocals
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Vernal MorganBackup vocals, percussion
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Samuel FeckletonGuitar, Backup vocals
Paul StoneGuitar
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonPercussion

14. SLIDE MONGOOSE - The mongoose was brought in from India in 1872 to fight cane rats. It developed a reputation in Jamaican culture as a crafty figure, and in this song, poked fun of individuals abusing their position in society.

Vernal MorganVocals
Nelson ChambersBanjo
Thomas HamiltonGuitar, Backup vocals
Kenneth BurrellRhumba Box
Paul StoneGuitar
Cosbert AllenDrums
Sticky ThompsonPercussion
Dean FraserSaxophone

Producer's Notes

Mento, the first commercially viable music of Jamaica, sprang from Jamaica's early folk music and was influenced by the Calypso craze of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. The music had a character of its own, however, and in many ways, outshone Calypso. Only a handful of original mento bands remain, but the survivors maintain their roots while taking on new members and direction.

Blue Glaze Mento Band is one of those enduring groups. They formed in the 1960’s and still have two original members—Nelson Chambers (banjo) and Kenneth Burrell (rhumba box). The group is noted for winning many mento competitions and for having a raw, country sound which, nonetheless, sounds highly polished. In 2002, one of the Jamaica’s most popular reggae singers, Stanley Beckford, chose Blue Glaze to back him in a series of records that fused both reggae and mento. As a result of this collaboration, the group’s sound evolved into something more contemporary, and what some have termed “reggaemento.” Bunny Wailer even categorized his contribution on the title track as “Rasta-reggaemento!”

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Mento, the first commercially variable music of Jamaica, sprang from its early folk music and was influenced by the Calypso craze of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. The music had a character of its own, however, and in many ways, outshone Calypso. Only a handful of original mento bands remain, but the survivors maintain their roots while taking on new members and direction.

Blue Glaze Mento Band is one of those enduring groups. They formed in the 1960’s and still have two original members—Nelson Chambers (banjo) and Kenneth Burrell (rhumba box). The group is noted for winning many mento competitions and for having a raw, country sound which, nonetheless, sounds highly polished. In 2002, one of the Jamaica’s most popular reggae singers, Stanley Beckford, chose Blue Glaze to back him in a series of records that fused both reggae and mento. As a result of this collaboration, the group’s sound evolved into something more contemporary, and what some have termed “reggaemento.” Bunny Wailer even categorized his contribution on the title track as “Rasta-reggaemento!”

I originally recorded the group as part of a documentary on mento music, in which the band was to play a few songs in the studio instead of “ina de yard.” It soon became apparent that the music was clicking and everybody hearing the playback was nodding their head in approval. Adding to the musical gumbo is Sticky Thompson, longtime percussionist for both Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, who happened to be in the studio and agreed to sit in.

Contributing new material to the group is singer Vernal Morgan, who recorded several popular songs for Duke Reid and Ms Pottinger’s Studio in the sixties. Vernal’s songs cover Rastafarian, gospel, and mento themes which not only diversify the band away from traditional pieces, but also fit the overall fabric of Blue Glaze’s sound. The sessions include modern interpretations of some 1950's era mento songs (i.e. Chin’s Calypso Quartet) that were quite popular in their day, but which have not been recorded a great deal.

The final sessions were guest-oriented. I got to know Toots Hibbert after running into him several times at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston. After discussing the project with him, he finally expressed interest in singing Vernal’s gospel song, “Great Jehovah.” This is a Jamaican country-gospel that lends itself well to Toots’ jump-up style. Ethnomusicologist Kenneth Bilby put me in touch with Stranger Cole, who initially was going to sing a traditional song, but upon listening to the band, convinced them to play one of his rocksteady classics, “Rough and Tough.”

Bunny Wailer has recorded many mento songs, both as a Wailer, and as a solo artist. Yet when I was finally able to get an introduction to him and discuss the tracks, he was more interested in doing the Rastafarian-themed song “We Will Wait.” Bunny appreciates the role that mento has played in the history of Jamaican music and sums it up quite simply, “mento is the root and reggae the stem.”

Bill Monsted

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