Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

Paradise Blue

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The Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra have been a fixture on the festival scene for decades worldwide, blasting out straightforward, brass-based ska. They have the stuttering rhythm guitar to be sure, but their focus is always on the horns. On Paradise Blue, they don't disappoint in that realm. The album opens with some fairly lazy vibes on a basic, bouncing ska in English. They go considerably more dramatic in the introduction to the title track before moving into a basic, stable groove. More traditional ska, à la the Skatalites, is the order of the day as the album progresses. They speed up a bit more for "Heaven's Door," while moving into something of a big-band composition. They add some serious '70s funk in the bassline of "Witching Hour." Some swing and bebop are infused (appropriately) into the hot "Like Jazz on Fire," an outstanding bit of Morricone-like Western that morphs into surf rock in "Farewell Waltz," while there's some Chick Corea-style piano romping in "Already Steady." The bandmembers have chops, and though they seem to have difficulty focusing those chops appropriately, they're almost always enjoyable as they move through their unwieldy paces. Ska fans should appreciate the big-band treatment and the stylistic wanderings alike.

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