Easy Star All-Stars
The Easy Star All-Stars are a collective family of some of the finest reggae musicians in the New York area. The band features a rotating cast drawn from a talented pool of players, meaning that every show has its own nuances and its own life. The masterminds behind the All-Stars are Easy Star musical director Michael Goldwasser (a.k.a. Michael G), his production partner Victor Axelrod (a.k.a. Ticklah), and his two Easy Star label partners Eric Smith and Lem Oppenheimer. These four were the team behind the album Dub Side of the Moon (2003), which was a complete reggae re-vision of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. That record has sold 90,000 copies to date, making it one of the most successful reggae albums of the 21st century. It continues to sell, having spent over 2 years on Billboard's Top Reggae Chart and Reggae Catalog Chart.
The Easy Star All-Stars began as a studio ensemble when Michael G and Ticklah were producing and recording the music for Easy Star Records' debut CD, Easy Star Volume One. With each successive recording, the two principal All-Stars worked with an ever-widening group of musicians to help flesh out their visions. After the release of Dub Side of the Moon, there was intense demand to have the group tour, thanks to the record's instant success. Ticklah was already committed to touring with one of his other projects (the critically acclaimed Afrobeat revivalists Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra), so Michael G called on many of the musicians they had been working with to make up the touring version of the Easy Star All-Stars. For the first outings, this included saxophonist/ flautist Jenny Hill, vocalist Kirsty Rock, drummer Ivan Katz, keyboardist Jeremy Mage, bassist/vocalist Ras Iray, and trombonist Buford O'Sullivan. Completing the group was dub engineer Dave Hahn (also the leader of up-and-coming reggae act Dub Is A Weapon). This line-up debuted in July 2003 and earned rave reviews during a three-week tour of the East Coast that fall.
In 2004, the Easy Star All-Stars family continued to grow and evolve, even while the band achieved more and more success playing major festivals and touring California and beyond. DJ Dollarman, who chatted on "Money" from the record, as well as on Easy Star Volume Two: Dancehall Culture, joined in Fall 2003 and toured with the group through early 2005. Reggae veteran Junior Jazz was added on vocals and guitar (at times playing with Michael G in a two-guitar line-up). When Kirsty Rock took time off to focus on her own band, Trumystic, the All-Stars happily called on singer Tamar-Kali to fill her spot. Tamar-Kali had also sung on the Dub Side of the Moon album, as well as on Ticklah's first solo record, Polydemic (1998). DJ Menny More joined up for the band's Midwest tour in June 2005 and has stayed on board for many of the shows since then. Other members of the musical collective, such as Victor Rice (Victor Rice Octet, Version City All-Stars and bassist on Dub Side of the Moon), Ruff Scott, Groove Collective's Jay Rodriguez, and Ticklah himself, join the All-Stars on specific gigs, adding their abilities to the already talented ensemble.
The Easy Star All-Stars—in any combination of members—have been a resounding success. The band has played at major festivals such as Northern California's Reggae On The River, Ragga Muffin Reggae Festival (in Long Beach and San Francisco), Colorado's Reggae On The Rocks, and the U.K.'s Big Chill and Glade Festival. They've headlined their own shows during two different tours in California (including playing to an estimated 10,000 people at the Twilight Dance Series in Santa Monica), sold out shows in England, and played special one-off appearances in the Midwest, New England and the entire Atlantic seaboard. Just this past March, the band made their debut in Europe, playing to large crowds in France, Italy and Zagreb, Croatia. May brings the band to Brazil and Argentina for the first time.
As individuals, the band's vocalists and instrumentalists have toured and recorded with Gil-Scott-Heron, Burning Spear, Toots and the Maytals, The Toasters, The Meditations, Bernie Worrell, DJ Logic, MC Solaar, King Django, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, The Scofflaws, Diana King, Dennis Brown, Monty Alexander, Sister Carol, and many others. Each of these musicians gets a chance to shine in the typical Easy Star set, whether it is through soloing, composing, or singing, or simply through playing an essential part in this tight-knit collective. Each line-up may result in slightly different sounds for this unique reggae band, but regardless of who plays, the one thing that never changes is that the Easy Star All-Stars deliver a fun, exciting, and different show every time out.