Early Jamaican ska groups carried the ska beat more with the drums than the guitar and offered melody from a jazzy horn section. In this way, New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble is a stretch back to an earlier form of the genre. However, NYSJE opts for a classic American jazz sound from their brass. Membership in the ensemble is drawn from such ska kings as the Toasters, the Scofflaws, and the Skatalites. The album is a near even mix of original and ska-styled jazz standards like the Steve Cropper-penned "See Saw," Les Brown's "Comes Love" (both featuring Checkered Cabs vocalist Caz Gardner), Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," and more. Jack Ruby Jr. (the Toasters) gives reggae vocal treatment to three of the 14 cuts. The resultant two-tone jazz gives off a subtropical hedonist charm, conjuring up the contrasting images of Jamaican beaches and jazz club nightlife. Trombone and sax are the mainstays of the NYSJE horn section with occasional flute and Nathan Breedlove guesting on trumpet for three tracks. Stand-up bass completes a jumping equation that leads in science more toward straight-ahead jazz and in spirit more toward lively, infectious ska.
AllMusic Review by Tom Schulte