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|Genres||Mento, Ska, Reggae|
For nearly sixty years, The Jolly Boys have been integral to the fabric of Port Antonio’s musical landscape and cultural heritage. Masters of mento, one of Jamaica’s original musics, this band has rocked innumerable private soirées, charmed the traveling elite and toured the world, leaving an indelible mark on everyone who has heard them. Their new album, Great Expectation, introduces a new sound and direction, making them more unforgettable than they have ever been.
The Jolly Boys quickly rose to local prominence in the 1950s as the house band for the Rat Pack’s Jamaica chapter, chaired by the swashbuckling enfant terrible, Errol Flynn. Singing songs of double entendre and ribaldry to those in search of escape and excess, the group served as Port Antonio’s go-to band for thirty years. Being “discovered” by a new generation of world music aficionados in the late 1980s meant that The Jolly Boys could take their musical party on the road. Several album, dozens of countries and thirty years since, The Jolly Boys have become the most recognizable mento band in the world.
Now, The Jolly Boys are back, reinvigorated with a revolutionary new sound. In early 2009, Jon Baker, founder of Gee Street Records and one-time leader of the A&R team at Island Records in NYC, held a recording session at Geejam studios to capture some of The Jolly Boys vintage material. He was looking for the rebel mento–the punk rock of its day–where singers sang frankly about sex and wrote biting commentary about relevant social issues. The Jolly Boys delivered, but it led to a fresh creative idea: why not dip into the rock repertory, take the songs that resonate with mento’s raucous history and give them a different vibe? Baker, together with his long term friend and creative partner Mark Jones from Wall of Sound, worked together and chose tracks from artists like the Clash, the Stooges, the Stranglers and Amy Winehouse. They fit the mento vibe so naturally that work on the new project began immediately.
Over the next several months, the group worked tirelessly with Dale Virgo, Baker’s co-producer, on a set of innovative arrangements and modern beats to complement and contemporize an older sound defined by banjos, maracas and rumba boxes. To bridge the narrows between the two styles, Baker brought in mento scholar and banjo driver Daniel Neely as the project’s music director. In addition, Jamaican saxophone legend Cedric Brooks added both his unique musical insight and his horn to the project. The entire endeavor was documented by filmmaker and director Rick Elgood (One Love, Dancehall Queen, Westway to the World), whose docudrama about The Jolly Boys past, present and future is currently in production. The result of these efforts is the Jolly Boys’ new album, Great Expectation, the birth of modern mento.
The well-seasoned and ever energetic Jolly Boys thrash out this new mento sound with as much heart and flex as any contemporary performer. Lead singer Albert Minott’s saturated vocals, natural retro chic stylings and limitless charisma convey an uncommon originality and musical creativity that is entirely his own. On tour this summer to promote the new album, Albert will be supported by a sensational group of foundational Jolly Boys and young Jamaican lions. It’ll leave you excited and wanting more.
Great Expectation was recorded at Geejam Studios, a residential recording studio and hotel, in Port Antonio, Jamaica. The video for Rehab, featuring Albert Minott (with a cameo by Patrice Flynn, Errol’s wife), was filmed at the Seaview Entertainment Centre, Limbo Lounge and Pat’s Rum Bar in Port Antonio by Rick Elgood.