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Arts and Entertainment | Thursday, September 30th, 2010, 6:45 pm

From Bob Marley to Kate Schrock: A conversation with Glen DaCosta

Courtesy photo
Sax player Glen DaCosta played with Bob Marley, and now Kate Schrock and Todd The Rocket

When you sit down for lunch with Glen DaCosta, it’s hard to have the kind of normal, banal, mealtime banter that’s so typical when you’ve got friends and food in front of you.

It’s hard because DaCosta shared about the same small, intimate space with Bob Marley, an outright legend in reggae, if not music history. But it’s not just the proximity that makes for a surreal experience. It’s the stories of a lifetime in music, of living in one of the more vexing countries in our hemisphere, and yes, being a member of Bob Marley’s band.

And now the sax player is about to lunch on some taco’s at El Rayo, trying to figure whether a fork or hands are the best course of attack.

DaCosta is in Maine this fall for concert dates with Kate Schrock and Todd The Rocket Richard, the biggest of which being a CD release and party at Port City Music Hall in Portland on Oct. 2. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., tickets are on sale for $10, or $18 for the VIP treatment.

Combining their powers as Kate and The Rocket, the singer/songwriter and percussionist (and DJ) are releasing “PCMH,” an EP of a live performance at Port City this spring. The limited-edition EP (only available at shows and a small number of stores), is something of an appetizer, a sneak peak of a full-length album Schrock and Richard are working on.

A notorious grinder when it comes to touring, Schrock met DaCosta years ago while playing shows in Kentucky and a mutual admiration society was formed almost instantly. DaCosta guested on Schrock’s last album, “Invocation,” and made the way to Maine to play shows with Schrock after its release.

As he considers his chicken taco and El Rayo’s “Mexico City Style” corn, DaCosta says he was taken aback by Schrock’s talent and the positive vibes she gave off.

“She’s a great songwriter and a genuine person,” he said. “She has inspired me as well.”

High praise from a man who shared stage and studio with Bob Marley. DaCosta, who has also played horns for artists like Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Lou Rawls, is credited with playing on albums like Kaya and Exodus, as well as the Survival Tour, one of Marley’s last before his death in 1981.

But it was more than just introducing a new style of music to the world that made Marley an icon. As DaCosta tells it, it was the way Marley used the music, sometimes as a rallying cry, and others as a weapon of protest, that made him stand out.

“When Bob died, everything went wrong,” he said. It was a difficult time, one where a succession of promoters and others tried to find ways to capitalize on Marley’s legacy and members of the band were left to choose sides. There were times when DaCosta found himself in a world famous band, but with little money and at one point no place to sleep. It’s a period that still makes DaCosta tear up when he talks about it. Even still, it’s an important time, as DaCosta is working on a book about his days with Marley and the Wailers.

DaCosta’s happier to be focusing on nothing but music, and happy to be in the states. While tastes have changed in his native Jamaica to more dancehall and DJ-centric music, the same openness and hunger for new music and new artists that welcomed Marley and the Wailers still exists in America, he says.

“American has a little better musical appetite,” he said. “Here you can spread your wings.”

It’s why Richard says he’s happy to have DaCosta in Portland, which has it’s own ever-changing musical identity. The Oct. 2 show not only features Schrock, Richard and DaCosta, but also later sets by ATOMIK and The Butter Bros. They also plan to record the night’s performances to be used on the forthcoming album.

“It’s a local effort to make this happen,” he said.

For as much as the world of music has changed thanks to things like iTunes and Pandora, one thing remains constant: live performance. For DaCosta, taking the stage remains the ultimate test for musicians.

Even with months of practice and routine, knowing songs down to the final note, performances all come down to doing it right just once. And even for a musician who has experienced as much as he has, that’s reason to pause.

“I still get nervous like a child going to school for the first time,” DaCosta said.

Justin Ellis is the editor of The Signal.

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