Friday, March 20, 2009

The Skatalites

The sound of the Skatalites is, to a large degree, the sound of Jamaican ska records from the 60s, but the actual reason the group formed as 'The Skatalites' was to perform live. By June of 1964, the musicians who came together as the Skatalites had already been crucially involved in the developement of the new Jamaican music called ska, but it wasn't until then that this group of the top studio musicians formed a self-contained live band, after years of recording in ever-changing combinations for a variety of producers (Clement Dodd, Duke Reid, Prince Buster, et al).

By the end of 1963, 'uptown' bandleaders were filling out their setlists with the latest ska hits but 'The Skatalites' still did not exist as such. The future Skatalites wanted to play their own ska music live, but to get booked, they needed two things: a name and a bandleader. The latter appeared when they convinced Tommy McCook (recently returned from eight years playing jazz in the Bahamas) to lead the band. The former came from McCook's 'punful' variation on Knibb's suggestion of 'Satellites'.
Thus equipped, the Skatalites were ready to take the live music scene in Jamaica by storm. By all accounts, they were one of the most exciting live bands on the island, but unfortunately, it seems that the only live performance that has survived in any recording medium is a famous piece of silent film that shows them playing on the back of a parade float. It often appears in ska documentaries with some studio record as soundtrack, but no actual live sound recordings appear to have survived that era. After a brief reunion in 1983-84, the band re-formed permanently in 1989 and went to work as a full-time touring band - without a break.

They tour Europe, the States and Japan relentlessly. With a core of original members the Skatalites show an entire generation of ska revivalists what ska was supposed to be. Seeing the Skatalites live has become like 'going to church' for younger fans who knew them only through their recordings. And recently there was even a very special double debut: The Skatalites live in Argentina! (It took 4 years of planning to bring the Skatalites to Buenos Aires for the first time!). A n d the production of a Skatalites live album that everyone's been waiting for, a mere 40 years after the breakup of the original group! 'Skatalites in Orbit Vol. 1' has been released in December 05 (Grover Records, V.O.R) and it's only the beginning. A series of live releases is planned to keep this band and this band's incredible spirit alive forever.


The Skatalites are:
Doreen Shaffer - Gesang
Val Douglas - Kontrabass
Lloyd Knibb - Schlagzeug
Lester 'Ska' Sterling - Alt Saxophon
Karl 'Cannonball' Bryan - Tenor Saxophon
Vin Gordon - Posaune
Kevin Batchelor - Trompete
Devon James - Gitarre
Ken Stewart - Piano

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A seminal force in the American ska & reggae scene, KING DJANGO has made his name internationally as a singer, ragamuffin MC, songwriter, arranger, instrumentalist (trombone, ukulele, harmonica, melodica, etc.), producer, studio engineer and label owner (Stubborn Records).

On his newest album Roots Tonic, Django has enlisted an all-star cast of NYC's finest ska/reggae veterans. The result: twelve crucial roots reggae cuts utilizing tuff original riddims covering a wide range of styles including dark, sultry lovers rock, militant rockers, crisp rub-a-dub deejay, psychedelic dub and even niyabinghi, complex lyrical structures, and combinations with Rocker T and Dr Ring Ding. Musically, Roots Tonic harkens back to the positive, political reggae of the late 70's / early 80's spearheaded by legendary imprints Island, Frontline, Trojan, Heartbeat, On-U Sound and Greensleeves. That was a time when songwriting was key, conscious lyrics reigned supreme and reggae music was live and full of soul & Dancehall was in its infancy and still resembled reggae, unlike its mostly American hip-hop and R&B influences today. So sit back, take a heavy drink -- its 100% organic -- and soak up reggae's energy, strength, and soul with our cure-all: KING DJANGO's Roots Tonic on JUMP UP/Stubborn Records (USA)/Bacteria Buffet Records (Canada)/Ska In The World Records (Japan)!

King Django always keeps busy and always has a surprise or two up his sleeve. Drawing on such diverse influences as roots reggae, dancehall, ska, rock, soul, swing, and American and Yiddish folk music, he has always been a hard man to pigeonhole. His versatility within genres of punk, rhythm & blues, and Jamaican grooves is unmatched, starting early as the singer / trombonist of legendary NYC ska band The Boilers (1986-1988), evolving through reggae/soul/punk/jazz experimentalists Skinnerbox (1989-1998), and achieving mainstream recognition as the founder and leader of traditional ska supergroup Stubborn All-Stars (1994-1999). After the ska revival died down, King Django was able to devote his full energy to solo material: "Roots and Culture" (Triple Crown Records, 1998) combined ska, reggae and traditional klezmer music; while "Reason" (Hellcat / Epitaph, 2001) was an adventurous, eclectic self-produced album of rock deeply grounded in roots-reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, and drum and bass. In late 2003, King Django headed to Switzerland to record King Django Meets The Scrucialists, unleashing twelve brilliant slices of political roots reggae, rockers, dub, lovers rock, ska and dancehall, including two combinations with German ska/dancehall superstar Dr. Ring Ding.

In 2003 and 2004, Django hit the road in support of three releases on three different independent labels. A Single Thread, an 11-year career retrospective, which saw release in three countries (Megalith Records, USA/Ska In The World, Japan/Leech, Switzerland) presents an overview of Django’s range of style and capabilities. In 2003, King Django headed to Europe to record King Django meets the Scrucialists (Jump Up Records, Chicago/Leech, Switzerland). These sessions unleashed the true lyrical genius that has been inside Django all this time. The result was twelve brilliant slices of political roots reggae, rockers, dub, lovers rock, ska and dancehall, including two combinations with German ska/dancehall superstar Dr. Ring DingThe American release also includes two exclusive dancehall versions created with the hottest new riddims coming straight out of Jamaica. Version City Sessions (Asian Man Records, California) showcases Django’s talents as a producer, engineer and remix artist.

King Django has toured internationally many times over as a solo artist, as the leader of Skinnerbox and Stubborn All Stars and as trombonist for Rancid, The Toasters, and legendary New York City hardcore band Murphy's Law.In the studio, he has worked closely with fellow NYC pals the The Slackers and Skadanks and recorded with Tim Armstrong, Lars Fredrickson and Matt Freeman of Rancid and Dicky Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones on Stubborn All Stars’ Back with A New Batch in 1997 (Triple Crown).

At about the same time, Django began collecting studio equipment and soon the legendary Version City was born. Within months, a steady flow of bands flocked to this NY mecca to create warm Jamaican vibes with Django's knowledge, production and engineering skills.<>


Chris Murray is a unique force on today's music scene. As leader of influential Canadian ska group King Apparatus, Chris earned a strong reputation as a dynamic performer and gifted songwriter. Upon the band's breakup, he relocated to Los Angeles, emerging as a solo artist with his debut album The 4-Track Adventures Of Venice Shoreline Chris. This charmingly lo-fi collection of home recordings won high praise for its finely crafted tunes and the raw sincerity of its vintage production.

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