Over the years, the Skatalites went through their share of personnel changes. In the 1990s, their lineup ranged from newcomers to survivors of the band's classic 1960s lineup, including saxmen Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso, bassist Lloyd Brevett, and drummer Lloyd Knibbs. But the 1990s personnel were quite faithful to the spirit of the 1960s band, and Hi-Bop Ska bears that out. Recorded 30 years after the breakup of the original Skatalites, Hi-Bop Ska finds the band's blend of R&B, jazz, and Afro-Caribbean music continuing to sound healthy and exuberant. On this project, the Skatalites are joined by distinguished guests who range from Jamaican icons Toots Hibbert (of Toots & the Maytals fame) and Prince Buster to such jazz improvisers as trumpeter Lester Bowie, saxman David Murray, pianist Monty Alexander, and trombonist Steve Turre. Bowie and Murray were best known for avant-garde jazz, but you won't find any dissonant, quirky outside playing on this album; from Alexander's "Renewal" and Murray's "Flowers for Albert" (dedicated to free jazz explorer Albert Ayler) to remakes of "Man in the Street" and "Guns of Navarone," the music on this mostly instrumental CD is quite accessible. The jazz guests get room to blow, but they are aware of the fact that Hi-Bop Ska is a ska project first and foremost.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson