Jazz artists experimenting with Jamaican pop musical forms are nothing new, but this U.K. musical group does so with an imaginative freshness and an instrumental virtuosity that is groundbreaking. Led by bassist Gary Crosby, this ten piece band, augmented by a happy band of additional studio musicians, offers a completely beguiling synthesis of ska and jazz, "skazz," working within the tight constraints of ska's insistent, polka-like rhythms.
Ska revival bands, both rock and jazz, have been heavily recording albums since the '80s, and most choose covers of original Jamaican ska hits or create original tunes that uncomfortably sound like the Jaimacan originals. It is a delightful surprise on this album to encounter versions of classic Blue Note '60s compositions you'd never imagine transformed into ska. Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance" gets a brightly strutting recasting, with an fiery sax solo by guest artist Andy Shepppard. Sheppard contributes yet another smoldering sax solo on Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," answered by an equally majestic solo statement by vibraphonist Orphy Robinson. I can't recall hearing a vibraphonist in any ska group before, classic Jamaican or revivalist, and it is very much to Robinson's credit that he not only clearly holds his own among a swarming cloud of loud brassmen, but he also opens our ears to the logic of a vibraphone tone within a pop/jazz Jamaican setting.
Unlike earlier jazz-ska fusions, this band is unafraid of occasional dissonance, or of really stretching out in demanding though laconic solos. They maintain a sense of sheer joy and heady experimentation while playing with fidelity to traditional Jamaican pop music forms. This represents a tremendous advance in Caribbean-flavored jazz, and hopefully will pave the way for other bands with like audaciousness and skill.
Track Listing: 1. Ball of Fire, 2. My Boy Lollipop, 3. Dolphin Dance, 4. Again, 5. Footprints, 6. Confucious, 7. Vitamin A, 8. Walk On By, 9.Liquidator, 10. Capullito de Aleli, 11. Medley: (Love Theme from) The Godfather/Al Capone
Personnel: Gary Crosby, Alex Wilson, Alan Weekes, Tony Uter, Orphy Robinson, Kenrick Rowe, Juliet Roberts, Denys Baptiste, Any Sheppard, and more.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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