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World: Reggae Moods: Featuring Guitar Moods: Type: Instrumental Reggae: Roots Reggae Reggae: Smooth Reggae

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Eugene Grey

According to Rootz Reggae & Kulcha magazine (2004), “Eugene Grey is yet another of the many genius guitarists of world class status that Jamaica has produced” playing professionally from the age of 14. He has recently completed his own tour in Argentina in 2008 and a tour as lead guitarist with Jamaica’s legendary Sly & Robbie in 2009. In December of 2010 Mr. Grey released his latest solo double album CD called Diversity available on itunes, CDBaby,, etc.

He was born in Green Island Jamaica, went to Ruseas High School where he started playing the harmonica in the School Band. After winning 1st place in the Pop and Mento competition, he taught himself to play the trombone, drums, piano and lastly the guitar which he made. Upon leaving Ruseas High School Eugene became the Lead Guitarist with the great band from Savana-la-mar, The Mighty Quinns led by Bryan “Bones” Atkinson. When the Quinns dissolved he went to the Yellow Bird Club to join Tony Hammond and the Sultons. While in this band Eugene started to perfect his skills as a composer and arranger. His first two compositions were featured on a Jazz festival held at the Holiday Inn. Eugene formed many bands through the years starting with The Soul Hermits and The Pot Hole Construction. He then joined Fab 5 where he worked on their first album, contributing one song, “Vagabond”. From Fab 5 Eugene joined The Caribs at the Sheraton Kingston Hotel where sometimes he would fill in for Jamaica’s legendary guitarist Ernest Ranglin.

Today, Eugene is well known to older heads in the New York City area, where he migrated to in 1976 with the band he formed at the Sheraton called Jamaica Subway International. While living in NY he became formally qualified in music by graduating from the City University of New York with a degree in Music Composition. Grey attributes this experience to his unique eclectic style that combines Jazz, Reggae, and Classical music. More recently, Grey is becoming increasingly well known by more people in South Florida where he relocated from New York. He combines teaching music formerly in the Florida School system and privately with performing internationally and locally.

His official debut release Timeless (Greyphone) in 2002 was nominated for a 2003 Reggaesoca Music Award. This instrumental album of interpretations of mostly colloquial themes enjoyed extensive airplay in the US, Canada and Jamaica as well as rave reviews. Jazzreview (2002) wrote of Timeless, “Eugene Grey is an experienced and gifted jazz guitarist. The music is timeless and Grey and his band certainly embraces a laid-back lilt of tropical sunshine and emerald waters.”

In June 2004 Eugene released Shades of Grey (Greyphone) which coincided with his performance at the Suntrust Jazz Brunch at Riverwalk in Fort Lauderdale. This CD was also nominated for a Reggaesoca Music Award in 2005. Beat Magazine (2004) states “Eugene Grey soars on Shades of Grey (Greyphone); the roots reggae version of a smooth-jazz album that showcases his stylized virtuoso electric guitar with soft backing vocals, chunky tracks bedded by real bass, drum and subdued keyboards.”

All of Eugene’s releases were recorded at his own studio, Tropic Isle Recording Studio, Inc. in Fort Lauderdale where he is the engineer. The studio has evolved over the last 21 years and is currently equipped with the latest software to handle live and MIDI recordings. Tropic Isle not only records Eugene’s projects but also the projects of other artists. Two songs on Ernie Ranglin’s latest release Surfin’ (Telarc), “Dance All” and “Yu Si Mi” were recorded at the studio as well as Eugene playing guitar.

Eugene has toured worldwide as lead guitarist with such artists as Grammy Award winners Burning Spear and Toots and the Maytals, as well as Culture, Fab 5, and the internationally acclaimed Kid Creole and the Coconuts. While with Kid Creole and the Coconuts they not only performed on music festivals but appeared on the likes of Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” and in the move “Lambada”. Eugene’s extraordinary talents were described best by bandleader August Darnell (Kid Creole) in their 1987 Official Tour Program. He stated, “Eugene is a gifted guitarist and much more versatile than I ever realized: he plays everything but when he plays those Haitain, Trinidadian, Afro-Cuban, Jamaican rhythms and licks, I go crazy. I love it. The man is bad.”

Other artists Eugene has performed with include Max Romeo whom he toured with for the first time in Europe, Horace Andy, Big Youth, The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, America’s Singing Poet Steve DePass, West Africa’s Abdou M’Boup and Vieux Diop, Tony Cafresi and His Latin Orchestra, The Wailers, and The Skatalites. While with The Skatalites Mr. Grey performed with Charlie Palmieri and Arthur Blythe at New York’s club ‘Village Gate’. In 1992 Eugene performed with his group, POWER REGGAE as the opening act and backing band for Jamaica’s Gregory Issacs in Switzerland.

He has recorded on all of the albums by Kid Creole and the Coconuts including arranging the song “Haiti” on their 1994 project. Eugene’s contribution to other recordings include the album “Voice of the Rastaman” by Shanachie artist Ras Tesfa and on the 1995 album “Via Jo” by Triloka artist Vieux Diop from Senegal, West Africa. As mentioned before, he recently played on two songs of Ernest Ranglin’s 2005 release Surfin’ (Telarc).

Another aspect of Eugene’s career included performing as musician in theatre musicals. He was a member of the orchestra in the Off-Broadway play “In A Pigs Valise” in 1989; “Pecong” in 1991 at Newark Symphony Hall and the Off Broadway Classical musical “Sally and Tom” at Castillo Theatre in 1995/96. He was Musical Director for the Off-Broadway musical “Rasta” in 1995 as well as in 2004 for Irving Burgie’s musical review “Day-O” at the Stratford East in London. Eugene had years earlier arranged 42 of the original songs of his longtime employer, Irving Burgie for this Broadway Musical review. These songs were made famous by Harry Belafonte 50 years ago. His arrangements garnered extensive praise from Mr. Burgie’s label Cherry Lane Records.

Eugene released in 2007 another project called “Authentic”. This album comprises all original material with the exception of an arrangement of Bob Marley’s song Jammin’ giving rise to the name authentic. It was during this year that he traveled to Argentina on request to perform. Eugene’s show was such a success that he was invited back in 2008 to perform as well as having a compilation CD called “Our Song” released in Argentina.