Skatalites | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Skatalites 

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Only four original members of the Skatalites play on the band's new album, From Paris With Love (World Village), but the disc is hardly the work of some ghost band cashing in on former glories. The ska pioneers have gone through countless lineup shifts since they changed the shape of Jamaican music back in the mid-60s (they've disbanded and re-formed frequently as well), but the group has remained vital thanks to the constant presence of drummer Lloyd Knibb and bassist Lloyd Brevett. The veteran rhythm section creates a steady syncopated pulse and an impossibly deep, bouncy pocket--the kind of tight interplay that could only come from a partnership of many years. On the new album, the band revisits various ska and reggae classics and retrofits the Afro-Cuban gem "El cumbanchero" as "Ska Fort Rock," but these catchy themes are largely vehicles for the band's lean improvisations--as they did on 1997's impressive Ball of Fire (Island Jamaica Jazz), the Skatalites emphasize their jazzy side these days. Alto saxophonist Lester Sterling and trumpeter John "Dizzy" Moore (the other original Skatalites) kick out one punchy solo after another, their lines brimming with rhythmic nuance and fluid melodic filigree. The group is rounded out by nimble-fingered guitarist Devon James (heavily influenced by Ernest Ranglin), tenor saxophonist Cedric Brooks (who's been with the band for several decades), trombonist Will Clark, and keyboardist Ken Stewart (who also manages the band). Deal's Gone Bad and Skapone open. Sunday, May 18, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Cliche Pascal Auffet.

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