Roland Alphonso: 1931-1998

When a man who helped create a popular genre of music that still bears fruit in different forms dies, one would expect a bigger fanfare. In this case, the music is ska -- the unique and potent Jamaican hybrid of jazz, R&B and Caribbean music -- and the man was noted saxophonist Roland Alphonso, who died on Nov. 20 at the age of 67. Alphonso was a virtuoso arranger and player whose greatest work was recorded with the legendary Skatalites during their initial run in the mid-'60s, but as one of the originators of the much-copied but never precisely duplicated genre, he was a persistent living link to the music's most glorious days. A reincarnation of the Skatalites (pictured above) that included Alphonso visited St. Louis on numerous occasions over the last decade, always putting on a high-energy show that appealed to old-school fans and a newer generation that discovered the music through second-wavers like the Specials or third-wavers like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. If you've never heard Alphonso's music, a good starting point is the highly popular Intensified Vol. 1, which includes his sublime arrangement of "El Pussy Cat." Fans who'd like to send condolences can write to Alphonso's family at 103-31 135th St., Queens,

 
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