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'We Will Wait' - for mento - New Orleans producer works with Blue Glaze

Published:Sunday | December 11, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

Bill Monsted has a two-word reply for The Sunday Gleaner when he is asked why he has produced a mento album. "Why not?" he asked.

Three years in the making and edging up to a few months since it has been available to the public, We Will Wait is a 14-track album by Blue Glaze Mento Band with guest appearances by Toots Hibbert (Great Jehovah), Bunny Wailer (We Will Wait) and Strangejah Cole on his own (Rough and Tough).

Among the other tracks are Big Boy and Teacher, Slide Mongoose, Parson Don't Bury the Man, Skanking Mood and Jamaica Land.

Monsted quickly expands on the off-the-cuff response. "I have been listening to mento ever since I was a child. My parents brought mento records from Jamaica," he said. Those 1950s and '60s trips to Round Hill in Hanover and Ocho Rios, St Ann, sowed the seed that saw Monsted doing three sessions with Blue Glaze. The first, at Tuff Gong, came out of a documentary he was a part of.

"We wanted to record one of the groups in the studio. We recorded about four or five songs and it came out very well. We thought we had the foundation for a record," Monsted said.

not strictly mento

They did. Although originally the plan was to have several more Jamaican guest artistes than the three who eventually appeared. Still, Monsted is happy with the product and points out that it is not a strictly mento CD, as there are other Jamaican music elements to it.

"It is interesting music to me. I like it," he said, not only of We Will Wait, but mento in general. As for him being based in New Orleans, Louisiana, and producing a band from May Pen, Jamaica, Monsted says "there are similarities between Jamaican mento and Dixieland", the banjo being a common element.

The Jolly Boys' album, Great Expectation, came out between the start of Monsted's project with Blue Glaze and its release, and Monsted points to the Portland group's success, including a European tour. However, touring may not be an option for Blue Glaze at this point, having lost key members in recent years. He readily admits that it is difficult to get exposure without touring, but is comforting that the music is available via the Internet and says "the interest in Bunny and Toots might hold over into the band".

And Monsted is confident that "people are more interested in roots, folk music now than they were 15 years ago. I think it is natural, blending the original forms with like reggae".