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If you aren’t familiar with Dave’s saxophone playing history, maybe you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of decades? He has been a gigging/touring musician since his teenage years, playing with HEPCAT, RANCID, STUBBORN ALL-STARS, Willie Williams, Stranger Cole, Glen Brown, Glen Adams, Archie Bell, and for the last 18 years, he has been the featured soloist with NYC’s legendary Ska band, THE SLACKERS. ROCKSTEADY 7, a fourteen year old all-star collective, is the band where Dave is able to showcase his unique style of Saxophone playing with extended Jazz improvisations over Reggae-Ska rhythms. As Dave explains, “I’m a freak stylistically. I’m a southern Californian raised kid who started out playing like Jamaican saxophonists, Roland Alphonso and Tommy McCook. Then I moved to New York and got into classic American saxophone like Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Lester Young, and Illinois Jacquet. Then I went on the road and started to understand the blues. I got into Howling Wolf, Tbone Walker, and Sonny Boy Williamson.”

This Blues influence becomes clear immediately on FRIENDS & ENEMIES. On the first track, “I Can See Clearly Now”, Dave’s solo adds harsh blue notes to the tunes sunny overtones. “Blast Off” is a stomping Jump Blues that recalls early Rock N Roll. “Evil” is reggae blues with a hint of menace in its swaggering groove.  Recorded live, without overdubs over the course of 1 day, at Seaside Studios in Brooklyn, FRIENDS & ENEMIES has a direct raw sound. The horns soar above the multi-layered rhythm section led by legendary master Jamaican percussionist, LARRY McDONALD, whose musical history goes from Mento to Ska to Reggae and beyond. This thick, full sound is uncomprimising in both the power and authenticity of its Jamaican rhythms and the adventurous Jazz of its solos. It’s far from the cocktail lounge sound of most Jamaican Jazz hybrids and far from the spastic twists of most contemporary American Ska.

It sounds like Fela Kuti, Burning Spear, the Skatalites, or one of David Murray’s big bands. Making the instrumental accessible through storytelling and fusing the rhythms of Jamaica Ska/Reggae with American Jazz has been the hallmark of ROCKSTEADY 7. As JAZZIZ Magazine commented about his last release, “HILLYARD CAN PLAY!”

The Rocksteady 7 is a musical collective that draws up a pool of the finest ska and reggae musicians in New York and beyond. Here are some of the players that play with the band;

Saxophone/Band leader: David Hillyard;
Percussion: Larry McDonald
Drums: Eddie Ocampo, Benny Herson, Glen Hackett
Trumpet: Rolf Langsjoen, Rich Graiko
Trombone: Phil Cooper,Buford O’Sullivan, Chris “Squantch” Sears
Guitar: Justin Rothberg, Dave Hahn, Jay Nugent
Bass: Dan Jesselson, Sheldon Gregg, Chris Weiggers
Keys: Dave Wake


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