When the Reel Big Fishes of the world return to their lives as janitors and the No Doubts drop the ska in favor of a more current sound, the Skatalites will remain, ever preaching the glory of ska -- not the dumb '90s kind but the classic sound of 1965 Jamaica, when the music that evolved into reggae was exploding and the uppity dum-chink, dum-chink rhythm set an island and, eventually, a world ablaze.
And it was the Skatalites who did the burning. Who knows how something magical happens, but it did when a bunch of musical geniuses -- including Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso and Jackie Mittoo -- converged in Kingston in the late-1950s, swept up by the glory of American rhythm and soul. But that was 35 years ago. The Skatalites 2000 feature three remaining members of the original band: alto-sax player Lester Sterling, drummer Lloyd Knibb and bassist Lloyd Brevett. The octet stretches out more these days than they did when the Skatalites were making Jamaican rhythm & blues; these days the style is more expansive, relying more on loose jazz structures than on rigid pop ones. The result, though, is just as transcendent, as evidenced on their two most recent releases, 1998's Skavoovee (Shanachie) and Ball of Fire (Island).
It should be noted that tonight's show is being held in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Vintage Vinyl, the city's best record store and the store that has maintained one of the best ska and reggae collections in the country for the duration of their existence.