New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble
Get This! (Moon Ska Records)
By: Alex Steininger
Featuring members of The Toasters, The Scofflaws, and The Skatalites, the New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble definitely has their roots in the New York ska scene. Playing a beautiful blend of ska and jazz, their third album proves that they are clearly one of the best jazz-ska bands out there to date.
The cool sounds of jazz and some danceable ska fill the air from the first notes on "Filthy McNasty." Although the horns are the most dominant, adding jazzy notes that make the music really warm and friendly, the keys are what leads the song and gives it flare. Not always present, when they are, they really liven up the music! As if it weren't jumpin' enough, they bring that much more excitement to the game. The percussion and bass keep a steady rhythm section, drawing from their traditional ska influences and adding a few kicks here and there. The guitar also plays a vital role, although it isn't very prominent in the song, it is the thing that gets you and keeps you dancing throughout. "Moby Dick" lets the jazz take a back seat, and brings forth the traditional ska in full force. This time the guitar makes a huge impact on the music, as everything revolves around it. Steady and enticing, you'll find yourself shaking your body too it, as you start to test the 'water'. Pretty soon, you'll feel the vibe and dive right in, getting your feet dancing to the song. The horns are soft most of the way through, playing along with the fair tempo of the song, but they also sneak in some powerful blows here and there, which really put a step in the song. Occasional mumbles and shouts add a bit of a reggae touch to the music, although the vocals seem to be thrown in just for fun, because they don't make a real impact on the song. "Buttah" brings along another ska number, but this one is a bit more up tempo than the other. The vocals still make their occasional 'rant' here and there, but nothing significant is really gained from them. I do like the sound of them intertwining with the music, but I would prefer it if they actually said something or sang along with the music, rather than throw a few words out in the open and then fade away. "Call Me" brings just that, a song with strong vocals that actually sing along with the music. A song about women, of course, it has the melody to dance along with, and the words to follow. One of my favorite tracks on this disc, I love hearing the horns add emotion to the words. As if a song about women wasn't already understood (by guys, for the most part...), the horns help bring certain words to life and let you get the full effect. I, for one, would love a whole album like this. "Agenda" brings another instrumental into the picture. Once again proving the idea that they don't need vocals to make their songs strong (allow I really would LOVE it...), this number helps bring the album to a near close. "Buttah (Jack Ruby Version)" officially brings this disc to a close. The addition of vocals that carry on for more than one or two words is really nice, especially when they get going, especially since their reggae-drenched style really makes this number come to life.
With some top players in the New York ska scene playing jazz meets traditional ska, it always makes me curious as to what they're going to come up with next. As expected, they delivered on all my pre-conceived notions, plus more. This is yet another fine album from this outfit. I'll give this disc an A.
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