Ska, 50 years in the making

Rare is the band that can say they are still recording half a century after they began, but that is the case for the pioneers of ska music, The Skatalites. Formed in Jamaica in 1964, the band’s music has influenced the likes of The Police, No Doubt and Sublime, and early on they backed notable bands like Toots and the Maytals and Prince Buster and “The Wailing Wailers,” featuring Bob Marley. The band split into two supergroups for a time many years ago, but they reunited in 1983, continued to make music and released their latest album, Walk With Me, last month.

The album’s 11 tracks are a combination of new tunes and newly recorded classics in honor of former members who have passed on. Featuring original vocalist Doreen Shaffer and alto sax man Lester Sterling, Walk With Me is largely a low-key, laidback affair. “Little Theresa” is a playful, almost childlike dancehall number, while “Desert Sky” was made to be listened to on a beach (all that’s missing is the steel drums) and “Love is the Way” — the last song original drummer Lloyd Knibb recorded before his death — is a smooth-grooving number. “Song for my Father,” however, provides a nice change of pace with a breezy flute, lively sax solos and what sounds like a big band orchestra augmenting the track’s sound throughout.

The Skatalites are clearly still having fun, so here’s to the next 50 years.

The Skatalites play with The Longshots 8 pm Tuesday, April 16, at WOW Hall; $12 adv., $15 door.

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