Easy Star All-Stars Biography
Combining musical versatility, instrumental prowess, beautiful vocal harmonies and a superb rhythm section, the Easy Star All-Stars have established themselves as one of the top international reggae acts since their live debut in 2003. Thanks to their best-selling tribute album releases, Dub Side of the Moon (2003) and Radiodread (2006), as well as Until That Day (2008), an original EP, the Easy Star All-Stars have built a growing, dedicated fan base throughout the world, bringing together fans of reggae, classic rock, dub and indie rock into one big family. Their latest release, Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band, released in April 2009, tackles the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in complete reggae fashion. It cracked the Billboard Top 200 twice, becoming the first reggae album to do that in over two years.
Originally formed in 1997 for Easy Star Records’ earliest recordings, the Easy Star All-Stars existed mostly as a studio entity until releasing Dub Side of the Moon in 2003. The group, which operates as a collective with a rotating cast of musicians and singers, was put together by Easy Star co-founders Michael Goldwasser, Eric Smith and Lem Oppenheimer. These three have directed and managed the band ever since. In 2009, the All-Stars played 125 shows in 25 countries on 6 different continents, truly establishing themselves as one of the top reggae touring acts in the world. The band was nominated for a UK Festival Award for its three-day, three-stage performance at Glastonbury 2009.
The other members of the Easy Star All-Stars, past and present, read like a who’s who of New York’s reggae, ska, dub and jazz scene. The core of the touring band has remained largely intact since 2003: Ras I Ray (bass, vocals), Ive-09 (drums), Kirsty Rock (vocals), Jennifer Hill (saxophone, flute) and Buford O’Sullivan (trombone). Menny More has handled deejay vocals since 2006. The current touring line up is filled out by Elenna Canlas (keyboards, vocals) and Shelton Garner Jr. (guitar, vocals), with either Justin Filmer or Amotz Nachmany handling dub engineering and sound. The band also rotates in Cliff Simpson (drums), Matt Bauder (saxophone), David Luther saxophone), Joanne Williams (vocals), One Drop (bass) and Curtis Fowlkes (trombone) depending on the tour. Other members of the collective—including vocalists Tamar-kali and Stephanie McKay, Groove Collective’s Jay Rodriguez, Antibalas’s Stuart Bogie, reggae legend Ranking Joe, trumpet player Pam Fleming (of the Burning Brass), deejay Dollarman, guitarist Junior Jazz, and keyboardists Ticklah and Jeremy Mage—all continue to make appearances or toured extensively with the group at one time. Producer/arranger/guitarist Michael Goldwasser still joins for occasional gigs, but spends most of his time in the studio working on the band’s musical output and his own outside productions for artists such as Rebelution, Umphrey’s McGee, Hatikva 6 and Corey Harris.
The Easy Star All-Stars—in any combination of members—have been a resounding success. Their worldwide album sales have surpassed 300,000 units since 2003, with Dub Side of the Moon staying on Billboard’s Reggae Chart since its 2003 release. MOJO picked Dub Side as the second best cover album of all time. Radiodread spent almost 2 years on Billboard’s Reggae Chart and earned praise from the members of Radiohead themselves.