Jazz Jamaica Allstars


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There are some musical ideas that work so well that the first time you hear them, you wonder why it wasn't done before. Such is the nature of Skaravan, the pioneering fusion between jazz and Jamaican music. Jazz Jamaica's rhythm section is most firmly anchored in the Caribbean tradition, the brass most firmly in the jazz camp, and together they make fantastic music. The original pieces are good, the covers revelatory. From the jazz side, Duke Ellington's "Caravan" has never sounded this loose, funky, and fun. From the ska side, this version of Don Drummond's "Don Cosmic" makes most others sound stilted and lifeless. (Drummond came from a jazz background himself before he helped create the Skatellites and release the albums that definite ska, so this could be taking the tune back to its roots.) That said, Skaravan isn't just a fusion of ska and jazz -- there are hints of mento, rhumba, and other styles going on here. This stylistic fusion sounds so good, it's a shame that this band never released a live album. As fine as the clean, precise renditions here sound, it would be wonderful to hear this band tossing around some solos and really stretching these tunes in different directions.

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