Now into their 48th year, The Skatalites have recently lost one of their founders and original bassist Lloyd Brevitt who passed away at the age of eighty. A sad inevitability for any band that’s been around that long, but they continue to attract new members and keep playing, recording and touring. What I like about them now is that they have a real international flavour to their line up. The tenor sax player and trumpet player are from London and guitarist Natty Frenchy is (of course) from France. They also have a keyboard player as well as bass player Val Douglas, drummer Trevor Thompson and alto sax player Lester “Ska” Sterling all from Kingston, Jamaica. Sterling is the last of the original members still alive, a link to their beginnings in 1964.
Great to hear the infectious melodies of classic Ska tunes like “Guns of Navarone” and “El pussycat Ska” by another deceased founder member of the band, Roland Alphonso. They play a great version of Don Drummond’s “Man in the street” and a rowdy version of “James Bond”, a proper Ska staple. The up for it audience are bouncing along from the start and there’s a great vibe as always seems to be the case at a Skatalites show. They also bring on their original vocalist Doreen Shaffer who immediately launches into a version of Mille Small’s “My boy lollipop”. Shaffer was still at school when she visited Coxsonne Dodd’s famous Studio One for an audition and has been part of the Skatalites set up ever since. A sing-along medley of “Rivers of Babylon”, “Wings of a Dove” and “Amen” keep the crowd moving.
An upbeat, crowd pleasing set that is always worth checking out, it’s good to hear the younger musicians playing alongside the original members as you can definitely see a passing of the mantle meaning the legacy of the band will always be preserved.