Cat Coore and Jarcat Records Launch into Cyberspace
Words and photos by M. Peggy Quattro
Kingston, Jamaica – Master musician Stephen “Cat” Coore has an impeccable reputation amongst industry peers and music fans in Kingston, Jamaica. Therefore, it was no surprise when the internationally acclaimed Third World Band guitarist, cellist, and producer aligned with veteran Kingston hotelier, actor, and aspiring singer/songwriter Donahue Jarrett, and Jarrett’s longtime friend and successful businessman Philip Hill, to launch Jarcat Records in Kingston, the heart of the reggae music industry.
The multi-faceted recording company has been in development for more than two years. Cat and Donahue have been writing and recording songs featuring themselves individually, while also capturing the talents of local singers and songwriters. The result is a 13-track CD entitled Jarcat Grooves Vol. 1. The first single to reach the airwaves is Donahue Jarrett’s “All I’ve Got to Give,” featuring guest vocals by Third World’s Bunny Rugs Clarke. This debut release offers a sampling of the songs that will be found on future solo albums for Cat and Donahue, as well as new recording artists Kai Wakeling and Sean Dayes.
On June 5, 2009, Jarcat Records introduced the label, talent, and the three principals behind the new web-based record company. Red Bones Café in New Kingston was the setting for a well-attended party filled with St. Andrew-based Kingstonians, music performers and producers, family and friends, media and well-wishers. Guest host Ms. Pat McKay, Music Programmer and On-air personality for New York-based Sirius-XM Satellite Radio, introduced Minister of Culture Olivia Grange who applauded the idea of a web-based record company, noting Jarcat was “moving in the right direction.” Music consultant to the Minister of Culture and Jarcat’s longtime friend Colin Leslie spoke briefly in support of the new venture and wished the competent trio much success. Ms. McKay then introduced Cat Coore and fellow director Philip Hill, who each welcomed the crowd and addressed the concept and goals of Jarcat Records. Based in Minneapolis, Hill is Donahue’s childhood friend and a business consultant to Fortune 100 companies. “This is a very exciting time for us,” said Hill. “We’re looking forward to sharing what we have as it comes from our hearts. We also feel that the subtle differences in using live musicians in our recordings will be our distinguishing factor.”
The stage, set under the Poor Man’s Orchid tree, soon filled with the Jarcat All-stars, consisting of Third World’s Tony Ruption on drums and Norris Webb on keyboards; Maxi Priest’s Taddy P on bass; and supporting vocalist Jana Bent. At the lead, sitting comfortably under the tree with an acoustic-looking electric guitar, was musical director Stephen “Cat” Coore. Following the show, Cat noted “there is so much young talent in Jamaica now…we see Jarcat as a vehicle that could really help them.”
After describing how one of Jarcat’s goals is to provide new artists with a platform to perform, Cat brought out singer Sean Dayes, aka Nikko Coptic, who competently performed his single, the self-penned, “Be Still,” along with DJ Hitman Wally. Raised in a musical family where he sang in church, Sean writes conscious lyrics to “praise God, entertain the faithful, and quiet the critics.” Cat describes his longtime friend as “someone who is as sincere and passionate about his message as the guy who has on robes, a tie-head, and a hundred Selassie buttons on his shirt.” After a thoughtful pause, he added, “Sincerity is not just found on the cover of a book, it is found in the chapters.”
Following a warm applause from the cool Kingston crowd for Sean, Cat introduced the lovely Kai Wakeling, the guitar-playing singer/songwriter and daughter of original Sunsplash founder John Wakeling. Kai performed a stirring version of “Feel You Near,” a song she wrote and produced by Cat Coore and Mikie Bennett. Cat credits her songwriting as being sincere. “Feel You Near” will be featured on her debut CD set for release later this year. Her confidence on stage was palpable, a result of her years as one of Jamaica’s top models, says Cat. “She did very very well,” he added.
Red Bones was buzzing with energy from the outstanding music and strong performances thus far. This was to reach even higher heights when the most anticipated performer of the evening was about to take stage. Cat introduced his partner Donahue Jarrett as an accomplished songwriter and businessperson, and a singer with a unique voice and personal style all his own. Appearing for the first time in front of his hometown friends and fans, Donahue Jarrett was dressed in a dazzling burgundy iridescent suit, purple shirt and tie, and black glasses. More striking than his attire was his voice. With a sound reminiscent of David Bowie, Donahue performed the memorable “Francesca’s Ballad” and “All I’ve Got to Give” from the Jarcat Grooves Vol. 1 CD. Both songs were perfectly delivered with a quiet confidence and vocal precision. The Kingston crowd, many of whom had no idea Donahue could sing, picked their jaws up off the floor before cheering and applauding for their hometown businessman-turned-performer.
Cat closed the showcase with a stirring cello rendition of Marley’s “Redemption Song.” The impromptu performance was flawless with Norris, Ruption and Taddy providing stellar backup. “These guys are so good,” says Cat, ‘it was no problem.” The reaction to the cello version surprised Cat, and now he’s thinking about adding it to the Jarcat website “as an extra,” and maybe even his solo album.
The debut of Donahue’s striking “All I’ve Got to Give” video, shot in Jamaica and the UK by the same crew who shot Steel Pulse’s video, was playing all evening on a large screen at the after-party. When asked how he felt about being referred to as the “black Bowie,” Donahue replied, “I think it’s the greatest compliment in the world! David Bowie is really great!” Fans will get to hear his complete debut album when Waiting in the Mezzanine, a reggae-based hip-hop influenced CD, is released later this year on Jarcat.
When Cat Coore was asked the following day his reaction to the launch, he replied, “I am very pleased…very blessed.” For two years, Cat and Donahue have been recording songs that will end up on their two solo albums. Cat Coore and Associates is a four-year long labor of love that will consist of Cat performing with an exalted list of who’s who in reggae music. Third World is prime importance in his life, he says, and he is looking forward to the release of their 35th anniversary CD, Patriots, featuring Mykal Rose, Gregory Isaacs, Stephen and Damian Markey, Dean Fraser, Capleton, Tarrus Riley, and more. “We consider everyone who plays on this album a patriot,” says Cat. “Quality and lyrical content – that inspiration – is important to any generation, especially in this time.” Patriots, a tribute to Jamaica national hero Paul Bogle, is set to release before his solo effort.
When asked if he was pleased with Donahue’s debut, he replied, “I am really really happy to see his progress.” Cat referred his friend to Pat Goodin, a vocal and stage training coach. “I’m telling you,” he said, “one of the things singers – or anyone who’s going on the stage – should do is go to someone with the experience to train you – there’s an etiquette in the way you do things on stage, and believe you me, if you can really get hold of that, you can you can bring so much of yourself out – you can make the stage be your home, you will never fear it, and you will never have a problem with crowds. You need to know how to handle the stress on stage, you need to know how to deliver so you’re comfortable – and if you don’t, you will find yourself choking.”
With the blend of talent involved in the operation at Jarcat Records, the musical community can expect great things. Solid musicianship and thought-provoking lyrics, web-based convenience and astute leadership raise the bar for established artists and young talent looking for a break. “Cat is the backbone of this operation,” says Donahue. And regarding his lifelong friend, “Philip is a great guy, and without him, we wouldn’t be here right now.”