Interview

The Uppertones: Jamaican boogie, that’s what we do

The Uppertones are coming back to Poland! Next week, with a refreshed line up and maybe also with some new songs, they will play in Poznań, Warsaw and Gdańsk. On this occasion, we want to take you back in time to last spring, when Mr. T-Bone and company visited us last time.

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The Uppertones

Polish fans of oldschool Jamaican sounds do not have an easy life. We can count our domestic bands on one hand (if you insist, maybe on two), and foreign bands visit us 2, maybe 3 times a year. That is why two tours of The Uppertones that included Poland in a short period of time were a pleasant surprise.

They came to Warsaw for the first time in the autumn of 2017 and from what I remember, the club was full and the party was fun. Skins, rock and roll fans and local pin up girls were dancing their feet off. Half a year later the attendance in Warsaw was not so great, but the concert itself – excellent.

The line up of The Uppertones has changed a bit since their last visit to Poland. A year ago, the band’s co-founder, Peter Truffa, left the band (certainly for longer, but forever?) He was replaced by the pianist and vocalist Phil Cuomo. The gentlemen are still playing their Jamaican boogie, a mix of Caribbean mento and calypso with American R’n’B and early rock and roll.

The Uppertones have ambitious plans for the coming months. From November to January they play gigs around Europe. Jump Up will release their Christmas 7-inch, and the band is planning to release a new album next spring. Perhaps one of these recordings was the secret they mentioned in our conversation.

If you haven’t seen The Uppertones live yet, you will have several opportunities in the near future:

Below you can listen to a short chat with Mr. T-Bone and Peter Truffa, which I recorded during their last visit to Warsaw.

Magdalena Miszewska: It’s nice to see you again in Poland. You’ve been here not so long ago, so I guess last time you’ve had fun?

Mr. T-Bone: Oh yes. The first time in Poland has been super fun. We came back now and we are probably going to come back before Christmas again. It’s possible.

MM: How did it happen? Do you want to move here?

Peter Truffa: No. We just have this friend, Victor, who expressed interest for us to play around and we find working with him very well.

MTB: We like people in Poland very much.

MM: Last year you released your second album, “Up up up”. This time you decided to record original songs. What was most important for you while you were writing them? Was it trying to get the music to sound just like in Jamaica in the 50s? How did the recording process go?

PT: Well, we wanted to keep it simple but effective. That’s the theory and the concept of Mr. T-Bone and I copied his formula. But then simple and effective is our original writing style actually.

MTB: When you do an album you can do many different things while you’re recording or while you’re arranging or mixing. We knew that we could make it in many different ways. But we decided to do it that way and we like it.

MM: And it must be a lot easier to work with only two other guys, instead of a bunch of people because that’s how you are used to work with all your other bands.

MTB: Yeah, of course. That’s why there are three of us because that’s the maximum that we can have, the maximum we can handle [laugh].

MM: Mr. T-Bone, when it comes to Jamaican music you’ve played nearly all types of it. You’ve played reggae, ska, rocksteady, ska-jazz with the New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble. And with The Uppertones you’ve been digging even deeper into history of this music. What’s the story behind the Jamaican boogie from the 50s?

MTB: Well, the story is that in that period in Jamaica there were a lot of musicians playing calypso and mento, which is the typical original music from Jamaica. Or not, because it is actually an Afro-Caribbean music from Trinidad. But anyway, the music doesn’t have a spot, it goes around. That’s why we are an Italian and an American and we play calypso and mento in Poland. Music doesn’t have borders. So in that period the Jamaican musicians were playing calypso and mento but they were listening to the music from the United States. They were listening to early boogie, blues, jump blues. And so they tried to make it their own way and they did. It was the beginning of Jamaican press plants and they started pressing their own 7-inches. There was this famous label called Blue Beat. When we were talking to Derrick Morgan about two months ago, he explained to us that the blue beat music doesn’t exist, that it was the label. Just like the Motown – it doesn’t mean Motown music is a style, but it’s a label. That’s what happened in Jamaica in the 50s. They were mixing together calypso, mento, boogie, jump blues. There are many ways to call this type of music. One of them is Jamaican boogie, that’s what we do. And it is interesting for us because we don’t play boogie, we don’t play blues, we don’t play ska, we don’t play reggae but we play all of these.

MM: And you’ve had a chance to work with Larry McDonald, the drummer who was there at the time.

MTB: Yeah, we both played with Larry many times. Larry is a fantastic musician and a beautiful man. We met him the first time in 2002, when I was recording my album “Mr. T-Bone sees America”. Since then we toured together sometimes and we recorded the album together. He is a fantastic musician. And that’s why we wanted him on this album, to give us the real sound of Jamaica at that times.

MM: I find this kind of funny that the American tourists, when they were visiting Jamaica in the 50s, they wanted to listen to calypso music so the bands played calypso. But at the same time Jamaican musicians wanted to listen to American rock and roll and play American rock and roll. And now you got a guy from New York who is playing early rock n roll in Jamaican style.

PT: And I live in Italy [laugh]. The world is a big soup [laugh].

MM: Jamaicans are known for their sense of style. And I think that it’s also important for you. Do you try to recreate the look of the Jamaican musicians of the 50s?

MTB: Technically we started with that idea but then we moved to wearing tuxedos. I don’t know if at that time they were wearing tuxedos, I don’t think so.

PT: It depends who. But I’ve seen some people imitating the Rat Pack. Of course the Rat Pack is the mainstream influence for that tuxedo I think. But even before Nat King Cole was wearing a tux. It’s a very classic look and many people were already sporting that in the 30s I guess.

MM: What are your plans for the nearest future? We know now that you are planning to come to Poland but besides that?

MTB: With those shows we start the summer tour and we have something like 40 shows all around Europe. We’re gonna come back to Poland, we’re gonna hit Czech Republic, France, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Italy of course.

MM: So you’re not thinking of any other releases right now?

MTB: Not at the moment. But no, actually we are talking about something but it is top secret because we don’t know what to do [laugh].

PT: We don’t, it’s a secret for us to.

MM: OK, I hope when you find out you’ll talk to us and that we can make it no secret anymore. Thank you.

Peter Tuffa from The Uppertones: read Rudemaker

🇵🇱 Tak, jesteśmy naprawdę szybcy. Dawno, dawno temu, kiedy Peter (video poniżej) wciąż był w składzie The Uppertones, udało nam się z chłopakami przeprowadzić krótką rozmowę. Dziś polecamy ją Wam jako rozgrzewkę przed nadchodzącymi koncertami zespołu.Wywiad (tekst + audio): rudemaker.pl/the-uppertones-jamajskie-boogie 12/11 Frankfurt: bit.ly/2NGjPMT13/11 Praga: bit.ly/2CB2Xkj14/11 Poznań: The Uppertones w Poznaniu u Pana Gara15/11 Warszawa: The Uppertones w PraCoVni16/11 Gdańsk: Gdańsk Ska Jamboree vol. 3 (Slim Edition)——————————————–🇺🇸 Yes, we're really quick. A long, long time ago, when Peter (video below) was still a member of The Uppertones, we managed to talk with the guys for a while. Today we recommend you this short interview as a warmup before their upcoming gigs. Interview (text + audio): rudemaker.com/the-uppertones-jamaican-boogie12/11 Frankfurt (DE): bit.ly/2NGjPMT13/11 Prague (CZ): bit.ly/2CB2Xkj14/11 Poznań (PL): The Uppertones w Poznaniu u Pana Gara15/11 Warszawa (PL): The Uppertones w PraCoVni16/11 Gdańsk (PL): Gdańsk Ska Jamboree vol. 3 (Slim Edition)

Opublikowany przez RudeMaker Wtorek, 12 listopada 2019

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