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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

The Skatalites

By Justin Hopper
Published March 16, 2007

In Orbit Vol. 1
Xaymaca

JAMAICA

Forty-plus years ago, the Skatalites made some of the most seminal recordings in modern popular music, laying down tracks for the likes of the Wailers and the Maytals. Since reforming in 1989, the band has wowed audiences worldwide, surviving the deaths of several founding members and the recent departure of bassist Lloyd Brevitt to remain a powerful live force. So this, allegedly the first in a series of live recordings, is a true joy. The Buenos Aires audience’s voluble joy proves that Latin America’s adoration of ska runs beyond the continent’s ubiquitous ska-punk bands—check the disc-opening salvo of “Olé, Skatalites!” soccer chants. When Lester “Ska” Sterling steps to the mic with his alto sax, the Argentines acknowledge his stature. And how sweet those solos: the Skatalites have always been a jazz group at heart, with their swinging rhythms, hard-bop horns and Kenny Burrell-meets-Ernest Ranglin guitar of Devon James.