Up Close and Personal with Third World’s Stephen “Cat” Coore
By Shelah Moody
Third World Founder Discusses Musicality and New Album Produced by Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
It does not have a title or a release date, but you can bet your last money that it will shoot to the top of the reggae charts. It’s a project that brings together two phenomenal musical talents from two generations—Third World and multiple Grammy winner Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley.
Third World recently released the first single; the buoyant “Loving You is Easy,” from the Damian Marley produced album, which at press time remains unnamed, on the Ghetto Youths International label.
The iconic reggae band, formed in 1973 and famous for their soulful live shows and hits such as “Try Jah Love,” “Now That We’ve Found Love,” “Reggae Ambassador,” “Lagos Jump” and “Forbidden Love” is still going strong. In the last decade, Third World suffered the loss of two crucial members, lead vocalist Bunny Rugs Clarke in 2014 and recently, former percussionist Irvin “Carrot” Jarrett in July of this year. Third World 2018 is still making relevant music that makes you want to get up and dance. If you are a true reggae fan, you’ve probably smoked a joint with Third World in Santa Cruz or danced to their infectious rhythms under the moonlight at the Waikiki Shell.
Island Stage recently sat down with Third World founder, cellist and guitarist Stephen “Cat” Coore to discuss their latest Marley produced album and other projects.
Island Stage: Congratulations on your new single, “Loving You is Easy.” Tell us about Third World’s collaboration with Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley.
Cat Coore: We are collaborating with Damian on the whole album project. That came about because Damian and Third World go back very far. Damian’s mom and my ex-wife had a store together. So Damian basically grew up in my house. He’s said that he’s always admired Third World and would always looked up to us. He said that it would be a great pleasure if we would do an album with him and we said, hello!
IS: Damian and your son, Shiah, are also close friends, and Shiah plays bass in his band.
CC: Yes, very close.
IS: Will Shiah be playing on any of the tracks on the new album?
CC: There are two tracks that he participated in; but I’m not sure what the final lineup is gonna be. But he has been with us throughout the project.
IS: What was it like working in the studio with Damian Marley, a man you have watched grow up?
CC: It was quite a revelation. It was surreal. What struck me most about this whole thing with Damian was his work ethic; how hard he really works and how much of himself he puts into anything that he does. His constant creative effort and the way that things were approached was extraordinary. The reason he has been so successful is because of the way that he approaches everything that he does. It’s just great seeing someone from that generation being so successful; and not because of a name, but because of the work that they’ve put in. That’s very important.
IS: Where did you record the majority of the album?
CC: The album was mostly recorded in Damian’s studio, Pinecrest, in Miami.
IS: Tell us about some of the tracks on the new album.
CC: We have a variety of music on the new album. We have strong reggae tracks and we have crossover material. We have one cover, “Yim Mas Gan,” an old Abyssinians great song. It is very much like “Satta Massagana,” with the strong harmonies and the praising and all that. You can get that song now on digital platforms.It was released a long time ago before the album took full form.
IS: What kind of reaction have you gotten from your fans about “Loving You is Easy”?
CC: It’s been very good. We’ve been checking our social media and we’re getting really nice comments about it. Quite a few people have downloaded it and listened to it and we’re getting a very strong reaction. We know that every song on the album is good.
IS: I hear A.J. Brown singing lead on “Loving You is Easy.” Tell us what he brings to Third World as a vocalist.
CC: Well, he brings a wealth of experience as a vocalist to the table. A.J. is probably the only Jamaican to ever do Las Vegas. A.J. had his own room in Vegas for seven years, at the Mirage. It was like a Caribbean room, he had a small venue of 300-400 people packed every night. He did reggae and other stuff as well. That in itself is a great achievement. He is also an extremely talented singer. He was actually around before Bunny Rugs passed, because Rugs was too ill to tour. A.J. basically took up the mantle. He kind of fell into place easily.
IS: My condolences on the recent passing of Carrot Jarrett.
CC: Thank you. Carrot came out of the generation of musicians who actually wanted a musical career. He was a fine percussion player. He was very meticulous as a person. It’s just so sad that he untimely passed away. It was unexpected. Carrot was in very good shape, and we would not have expected a heart related thing.
IS: I’ve seen Third World live many times and I’m always amazed at how gifted you are as an instrumentalist, on the cello and guitar. Tell us about your background in classical music.
CC:My mom was a music teacher, and she noticed that when she played her records, I would walk around in a circle; and once the music stopped, I would stop. This was when I was about a year old. She encouraged me; she started me off on the piano but I did not work out so great on the piano. I had a real love for string instruments from an early age. That was the conduit that led me to play the cello. From there, things progressed and I got interested in pop music around age 12. I started a little band in the neighborhood called the Alley Cats, which is how I got the nick name Cat. I joined Inner Circle when I was 13 and I played with them until I was 17. I left and started Third World. When I was about 10 or 11, most of the kids of my generation played music or wanted to play music, which is not so today. Most of the kids either want to do DJ business or create beats or play sports, but not a lot of them want to go to music lessons, which is so vital if you want to do anything in music; you have to have that base.
IS: Where did you study music?
CC: I studied music with a lady named Noelle Foster Davis. She had a school called the Foster Davis School of Music; and she really honed my skills in music. The skills I have in music come from her; you know, the passion of playing the string instruments and the business of fingering. Most of my heartfelt love for music comes from my mom, Mrs. Rita Coore. She was more of a finisher more than she was a teacher of music. She was a first grade teacher and she prepared students for classical concerts and tournaments. The students who came to here were already well endowed on the cello.
IS: Have you performed with a symphony orchestra, and will you record an album of classical music one day?
CC: I’m not sure exactly how I would go about that. I was a member of the Jamaican Youth Orchestra, which was a very good orchestra. Those days are gone. Those were the days when we had five first violins, five second violins, five first viola, second viola, first cello, second cello. We don’t have anything now.
IS: Third World was the first reggae band to appear on “Soul Train.” Tell us about that experience.
CC: That was a special time for us, really and truly. I mean, breaking out and getting into the music business and making it big. It was special for us to be on the Soul Train Cruise the year before last. It was fantastic.
IS: What was it like collaborating with Stevie Wonder in the seventies?
CC: It was fantastic. Stevie Wonder really brought a special element to Third World. He brought a certain level of music professionalism and love and a certain approach. Of course, the success that we reaped from “Try Jah Love” helped to mold us as people, too. We had huge hits in Japan with “Try Jah Love” and we went to the top of the Japanese music charts. That started a whole relationship with Third World and Japan. The Far East and Hawaii opened up big time for us. We give thanks for all of that, because in your journey as a musician, you have your challenges and you have your highs and your lows. We give thanks for everything and we are happy to still be around.
IS: On that note, Third World has pulled in some outstanding and well versed musicians, such as Tony “Ruption” Williams.
CC: Ruption is very talented as a percussionist and as a drummer. If you’ve seen our show and seen him perform, you can attest to that. All of Third World’s musicians are very good. That’s the first requirement; you have to be a good musician, you can’t come to Third World and not be a good musician because the songs are just too hard to play!
IS: Speaking of good musicians, what about Richard Daley, another longtime member?
CC: Richie’s doing good. Richie is and elder statesman likes me, and we’ve been around and seen it all and done it all. We have not been to China or India, not yet! We’ve had a very long and successful career and we give thanks every single day that we can continue our career. We really do.
IS: And Maurice Gregory, keyboardist?
CC: Maurice is a great singer, a great musician, and he brings a kind of kind, loving character that is really special. He’s a good producer, too.
IS: Along with the new album, tell us about other upcoming Third World projects.
CC: Well, we’ve been on the road since June, and we are working on some video projects. We are putting together a show in December here in Kingston, the Third World and Family show. We are also finishing up the album. Our next major event will be the Welcome to Jamrock Cruise on Dec. 1.
IS: Do you foresee any Grammy nominations or recognition with this new album?
CC: Well, as I told a radio station yesterday; we’ve been nominated 10 times and never won, but a nomination is just as big of an honor. When you are nominated, you’ve already won, in a sense. We just hope for the best and we know that we’ve put our best foot forward, and we know Jr. Gong has also put his best foot forward. We are looking for the best possible scenario from the album.
IS: Will there be some live performances with you and Jr.Gong performing tracks from the album?
CC: I can’t say yet, but hopefully; we are looking towards it.
IS: In closing, what would you like to say to Third World fans?
CC: Thanks so much for being with us through the years. I certainly hope you all like the new single, and we are working on as much music as possible for our fans to hear, because that’s what we’re here for!
Third World 2018 includes: Stephen “Cat” Coore – guitars, cello Richard Daley – bass Tony “Ruption” Williams – drums Norris “Noriega” Webb – keyboards Maurice Gregory – keyboard AJ Brown – vocals