By Otis Shaw
Pioneers of Jamaican Ska, rude-boy lifestyle, jazz-calypso-blues-reggae fusion and the catalyst for introducing Bob Marley, The Skatalites reputation as one of the most justified reformations in the history of Ska speaks for itself . Jackie Mitto, Lester Sterling, Rolando Alphonso, Don Drummond, and Jah Jerry Haynes are just a few of the many great musicians to be involved in the family that would become The Skatalites.
With now only four original members of the band remaining, to miss out on a rare Skatalite performance should be compared to knocking back a back scrub with Cameron Diaz, complete with foot manicure and shiatsu massage.
The night is Thursday 11 December. The venue, the Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh. After a royal warm-up from Glasgow’s Mungo’s Hi-Fi Sound System, the stage presence from The Skatalites is one of Jamaican warriors. Eyes that have seen the effects of political corruption, the pains of cancer and the reality of murder and suicide. The band have risen above all ghosts of the past and their positive energy is a true testimont to the words of Bob Marley.
By the time Cedric Brooks and Lester Sterling’s familiar horns are playing Guns of Navarone, there is a unified rhythm, with band and audience. The air is charged with a sexual energy Kylie and Madonna have been trying to bottle for years. A young trumpeteer hynotises the lovers amongst the crowd with pelvic thrusts. Lester Sterling caresses his Saxophone as if courting an Eastern promise . The high pitches of the trumpet and deep tones of the trumbone reach out to the audience like the serpent amidst Adam and Eve.
The crowd welcome the Skatalites female vocalist, Doreen Shaffer, forerunning member since 1967. As she glides through Simmer Down, the audience are dining out of her hand. She returns for an encore, giving a performance that would send your grandma into Cardiac Arrest.
One expects something pretty special for £17.50 a ticket and £3.50 a bottle, but what the Skatalites have given us tonight, money just can’t buy – a reminder that amidst financial doom and another crippling winter, music can lift you onto higher ground and bring sunshine into the darkest of days.