Brainlab Groove

David Hillyard & The Rocksteady 7


The Rocksteady 7 or “David Hillyard & the Rocksteady Seven”, is an influential American Ska and Jazz band from New York, New York that formed in 1992. Since the early 90’s the group has consisted of tenor saxophonist and band leader David Hillyard as well as percussionist Larry McDonald. In live performances, they are supported by a rotating cast of musicians, including drummer Eddie Ocampo and Dave Wake on keys among others.

Given reggae’s globally reaching influence, the Rocksteady 7 holds true to the genre’s roots and the self-described “Jamaican Jazz” sound combines ska, rocksteady and reggae with extended jazz improvisation, intricate melodies, and complex harmonies. The group incorporates many diverse elements of world music with rocksteady rhythms, including ska, jazz, calypso, as well as early African and American jazz influences.

David Hillyard & the Rocksteady 7 are innovators in the Jamaican Jazz genre, which experiments in mixing jazz, reggae, latin, and ska. The group features a shifting collective of some of the best musicians in New York City with experience playing with a variety of musical acts from Sting to the Skatalites.

Senior among them is veteran percussionist, Larry McDonald on congo. Larry began his career at the inception of ska music with Carlos Malcolm’s Afro Jamaicans. McDonald went on to perform on several classic reggae tracks such as Cherry Oh Baby, Funky Kingston and Rivers of Babylon. He left Jamaica after playing on several crucial Bob Marley cuts and has since backed up American icons, from Taj Mahal, Gil-Scott Heron, Bad Brains and Dave Hahn, earning him the sometime nickname “Original Beatnik”.[1]

Blending ska, reggae, jazz and blues, David Hillyard and The Rocksteady 7 has championed the style of mixing Jamaican Rhythms and American Jazz, celebrating commonalities between improvised foundation ska, roots reggae, and Latin jazz played by an accomplished and diverse line-up. “I picked the musicians for their personal style,” says Hillyard. “I want them to be themselves and make a soup. This recording is all live, no overdubs.