Roland Alphonso

Saxophonist Roland Alphonso was one of the major figures of early ska and reggae on several fronts: his recordings as a soloist and bandleader, his work as a member of the Skatalites, his prolific log of session appearances on 1960s Jamaican recordings, and his role as arranger for Studio One. Although his roots were in the jazz he played as a teenager and young man, he adapted to the emerging Jamaican popular music so well that he became one of its defining innovators. Certainly he was one of reggae's most accomplished instrumentalists; while many horns on ska and rock steady discs of the 1960s are off-key or whiny, Alphonso's tone was in a league with American jazzmen and R&B players. His versatility allowed for a wide scope of recorded material, from up-tempo ska novelties and ballads that showed his skill at jazz improvisation to numbers with an R&B/soul base.