Photo By David Thomas
Gig review: The Skatalites, ABC, Glasgow
By FIONA SHEPHERD
Published on Thursday 31 May 2012
ROLLING Stone magazine has dubbed ska veterans the Skatalites “Jamaica’s answer to the Motown house band and Booker T and the MGs combined” for their unassuming but pivotal role in the forging of a much loved sound as sometime backing band to the illustrious likes of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Prince Buster.
The Skatalites of 2012 are closer in spirit than body to their 1960s incarnation, with only alto saxophonist Lester Sterling surviving from the original line-up, but the bumper bill of Scottish support acts at this unbridled ska party, including the rollicking Oi outfit Big Fat Panda, the brassy big band knees-up of Bombskare and the authentic soundtrack of the Dr No DJs, testified to how deep their influence resonates.
The headliners were in a different league, however, both as virtuosos and a cohesive combo. Their approach is closer to that of a jazz ensemble, with individual members of the brass frontline supplying lithe, melodic solos over the off-kilter bounce of the ska rhythm.
This was a showcase of serious musicianship but not to the detriment of a good time. There was great character in, say, a tight-but-loose trombone break or a sassy conversation between trumpet and tenor sax.
Their unison playing was just as striking for its evergreen richness, and they playfully flaunted their diverse popular appeal with the skatification of a Beatles tune, cheeky references to the likes of Ring of Fire and bursts of Latin flavour.