Jazz Jamaica

Jazz Jamaica

Double Barrel


The latest trend in ska has been the logical return to its rootsy connections to rhythm and blues and, more notably jazz. Supergroups such as the New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Jamaica have vividly shown the connection between ska and jazz, mining bebop, cool, and swing sub-genres and dropping over that incessant ska beat. And while it may not seem as inspired as its debut, Skaravan, Jazz Jamaica’s sophomore release, Double Barrel, does an excellent job of keeping the connection relevant and fun at the same time. The group features players who have played with some of the biggest names in the field; keyboardist Clifton “Bigga” Morrison has worked with the Skatalites (who hasn’t?), Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown and veteran percussionist Tony Uter have worked with Toots and the Maytals, to name a few. The experience that this nine-piece ensemble brings to the table molds nicely with its passion for the fusion, giving the album that same comfortable feel that made Skaravan such a sweet listening. (And word is they smoke live, which definitely makes sense.)

On Double Barrel, the group continues to pay homage to jazz and ska greats, with a dash of reggae thrown in on such numbers as the opening title track. They also deftly rip through ska standards such as “Monkey Man” and two by Don Drummond, “Confucius” and “Marcus Junior.” Then there’s Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly” and Charlie Parker’s “Dewey Square.” It’s when the guys step out of the ska-jazz setting that Double Barrel starts to annoy. I mean, c’mon, haven’t we heard “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” in enough settings to the point where we’re not overwhelmed anymore? And even Jazz Jamaica has gotten in on the Burt Bacharach revival with a tepid cover of “Walk on By.”

Relatively small complaints, though. The pluses definitely outweigh the negatives as Jazz Jamaica continues to show just how fluid ska can really be. Rykodisc, Shetland Park, 27 Congress Street, Salem, MA 01970.)

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