Vin Gordon – A Beginner’s Guide

Vin Gordon - African Shores -

A Beginner's Guide to Vin Gordon

My previous blog Reggae Roots Review, focused on the small but vibrant world reggae scene, the title sort of gives it away! There is a community of young producers, artists, promoters and DJs who are keeping reggae alive. From Poland to Brazil, and France to Estonia, the reggae scene is in safe hands, fuelled by a love for the music and culture. So if you are coming to this article on the back of my pieces on Pop Will Eat Itself or Mighty Mighty, I am hoping that this brief beginner’s guide to Vin Gordon will introduce you to some great music that you may not be so familiar with.

Who is Vin Gordon and how did he start in music?

Let’s get introductions out of the way, Vin Gordon is a legendary Jamaican trombonist. He may not be a familiar name to many of you, some of his peers like Rico who worked with The Specials, may be more recognizable.

His musical career started at a young age at The Alpha Boys School, which was a school run by nuns in Kingston, Jamaica. The nuns saw music as a good focus for ‘wayward boys’. The school produced a supply of talented musicians, many of whom went on to be influential figures in the Jamaican music scene. This included Vin and this musical grounding led to his first break as part of the Studio One house band.  

What releases will I know him from?

You may not realise it, but you have probably already heard his trombone sound. Vin has featured on hundreds of albums from artists including Burning Spear, U Roy and Augustus Pablo. He was also Bob Marley’s go to trombone guy and featured on the Kaya and Exodus albums.

Vin’s arrival in England in 1979 helped raise the bar for English reggae. His involvement with Aswad helped their musical growth, which culminated in my favourite British reggae track ‘Warrior Charge’. This track featured in the film Babylon, which was another social landmark in British reggae. It showcased the reggae / sound system culture in 70s Britain and also highlighted the difficulties young black guys experienced from the police and wider society.

What is his latest album?

Vin Gordon has never stopped working, whether as a session musician or as part of touring bands. But in recent years he has had a bit of a renaissance. Young producers eager to release their own interpretations of 60s and 70s roots and dub, have recruited the talented musicians who played on those original releases. One such producer is Manchester based Al Breadwinner. Al has released a steady stream of top notch albums and singles, all recorded at his Bakery studios using original analogue equipment.

The YouTube clip below features a track from Vin Gordon’s new LP ‘African Shores’, produced by Al Breadwinner. It’s a little dubby, a little funky in places and a great instrumental showcase for the talented trombonist. You can hear more at the Breadwinner Bandcamp site, it’s available on LP, CD and download for the digital generation!

What else should I look out for from Vin Gordon?

Another LP worth checking out and a good way into Vin’s music is ‘Heavenless’, which was released in 2016 by Brighton based Roots Garden Records. This album is more up tempo than African Shores and brings in vocals to make it a more upbeat and celebratory set.

Jon Jones, a fixture of the Brighton reggae scene, is the label’s owner and his releases never disappoint. I like this quote from Woofah Magazine about the label, “One of the few “buy on sight labels” still around”. I think we all have favourite record labels, where every release is a must have! You can read more about Heavenless at my Reggae Roots Review site, the album is available to buy on LP and Digital direct from Roots Garden.

That was very much a whistle stop guide to Vin Gordon. I hope you will investigate his work further. Check out the Vin Gordon website to learn more about his life in music.

In the meantime please leave a comment and let me know what you think of his music. A social media share would be very useful as well, they are the lifeblood to blogs like mine.


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