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  • Writer's pictureJoelle Rattray


5 trumpet players from Alpha who gave jazz, ska and reggae their unique sound.

Brass instruments are a foundation element of Jamaican jazz, ska and reggae. They carry the melody and along with saxophones and trombones link the various genres as part of the ever present horn section. Dizzy Reece, Bobby Ellis, David Madden, Dizzy Moore and Tan Tan make up a special horn section that we currently have on repeat...


Alphonso Son "Dizzy" Reece (born 5 January 1931) is a hard bop jazz trumpeter. He is one of several jazz musicians who got their start at Alpha including Bertie King, Joe Harriott, Wilton Gaynair, Tommy McCook, and trombonist Don Drummond. Reece became a full-time musician at the young age of 16, after which he moved to London and worked around Europe (especially in Paris), throughout the 1950s. He recorded “Blues in Trinity”, his first Blue Note album in 1958 (his sidemen were Donald Byrd and Art Taylor). The following year, having received praise from the great Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, Reece moved to New York City where he still resides.


After leaving Alpha, Bobby Ellis OD (1932 – 2016) worked with multiple celebrated reggae artists such as Peter Tosh, Burning Spear (including the song "Marcus Garvey" featuring his band The Black Disciples) and The Revolutionaries. Born on October 2, 1932 in Kingston, Ellis received training in the trumpet and flugelhorn at the Alpha Boys School which ultimately led him to work as a horn arranger for Studio One as well as an arranger for the producer Jack Ruby. During his career, he also had the privilege of playing and co-arranging the horns with Tommy McCook on Bunny Wailer's 1976 album Blackheart Man. In October 2014, Ellis was awarded the Order of Distinction.


David Madden (born 1943), is a composer, arranger, singer, and trumpeter whose extensive career was marked by collaborations with musical greats like Bob Marley & the Wailers, Ernest Ranglin, Freddie McGregor, Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear, Bob Andy, Peter Tosh, Beres Hammond, Ziggy Marley, Dawn Penn, Dennis Brown, and Sean Paul. Creating the duo “Im and David,” Madden partnered with saxophonist Cedric "Im" Brooks to record for the producer Coxsone Dodd at Studio One. His career soared even further when he co-founded the group “Zap Pow”. During Zap Pow’s run, he served as a studio musician who featured on about nineteen of Bob Marley's hits, and became a floor member of the Wailers in 1982–83 – around the time of Zap Pow’s disbandment. Since then, Madden has recorded several albums as a solo artist on his very own label “Large, Medium and Small Music” taking his career into the 21st century.


John Arlington "Dizzy" Moore OD (1938 – 2008), was a trumpeter and founding member of groundbreaking ska band “The Skatalites”. After studying the trumpet, Moore, like many Alpha past boys, joined the army. He later became a member of the Mapletoft Poulle Orchestra, as well as Eric Dean's band. Working as a session musician in the early 1960s, he played in the studio band "The Cavaliers", while making regular visits to a Rastafarian camp at Wareika Hill led by Count Ossie. In 1964, however, things took a turn as Moore, along with fellow past Alpha boys Don Drummond, Lester Sterling and Tommy McCook, took part in forming The Skatalites. Moore was recognised for his work in Jamaican music when he received the Order of Distinction in 2007.


Edward "Tan Tan" Thornton (born 1931), is a trumpeter who began his career in the 1950s after attending the Alpha Boys School. During his 20s, he played with Don Drummond in the Roy Coulton band (the first band to play live on Jamaican radio). He toured worldwide with several jazz musicians, before settling in Europe, where he played with multiple bands such as Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames. Notably, he played on The Beatles' record "Got to Get You into My Life", performed with Boney M. and Aswad and, since 2008, has featured on most of the band Kitty, Daisy & Lewis’ albums.



Alpha's130-year tradition of music education has produced jazz innovators, ska pioneers and reggae icons. We are excited to offer a meaningful and innovative music training curriculum to youth today. We need your help to make it possible. Thank you for your support!


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