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Culture Reviews
The Skatalites
B2 Club 
By Melissa B. Smith
The Skatalites have influenced and incubated generations of Raggae, Ska and Rock Steady artists. The collective formed in the early sixties continues to transform itself and inspire admirers. The Skatalites latest incarnation performed at Club B2 last Thursday night.

Club B2 hosts class-acts on a regular basis (www.b2club.ru). The club is humongous but cleverly designed to almost feel cozy. Carousing the flights and secret rooms of the concert hall, one completely forgets about the activity bustling below in the Japanese Kitchen, Beer
Restaurant and Billiards.

The staff is friendly (some very), young and good-looking - much like the clientele. There was an interesting and unpretentious mix ranging from university students and tattooed types to Finnish businessmen. The most notable anomaly was a revelry of bald dudes wearing cotton button-downs and suspenders - the new fashion for true Ska enthusiasts.

Rushing into B2 off the drizzled streets of Moscow, I had to down a Johhny Walker (high in price but low in volume - standard) before hustling backstage to greet the greats. Honored to meet the masters of Ska, it was tempting to barrage them with common questions but
intuition and an attempt urged better.

Dangling unaware of occasion specific protocol, I resorted to the usual survival tactic - dilate pupils and smile. Amused, Devon James - veteran guitarist, picked up a camcorder and teased me with compliments. Thus, infused with courage, I could pose the first and most pressing question - "Who's Lloyd?" "Lloyd Knibb is sitting on the other chair." "He's an original." "He knows all the beats," they replied as he reigned silently and sure. Just then entered the other original Lloyd, Lloyd Brevett - bassist. Tall and thin with bright colors, ruby gold rings and long long dreadlocks, he was accompanied by a velvet-clad lady and the lovely Doreen Shaffer.

Forty years and still strong, I wondered how the collective could so successfully transcend space and time. "Some of us have been together since tender age." "We follow the drum beat." "All of our songs are hits." "It's Magic! When we play even the cripple he gonna move." That last remark was made by the one and only Lester "Ska" Sterling. A charming alto earl in red shirt and black cap, he would nod off from time to time, waking up when elbowed.

Curious as to their attitude towards Babylon, I inquired if I could ask about politics. Ken Stewart - keyboardist and Bostonian, succinctly expressed his opinion on the recent US elections. But
when Lloyd Brevett proclaimed he don't have nothing to do with it, that he only care about the One Love, my written list of questions suddenly seemed even more mundane. There was only one thing to do - lean back and bask in the nuances of Patoi and Island English which swirled
around the room.

Devon James cut off the video recorder and offered a beer. "Don't go, we like your company," he chuckled. Oleg, the excellent waiter brought in a tray of exotic fruit, and before long Mr. James
and I began to reminisce about mangos, glass-bottomed boats and the pleasures of creation. As the performance hour approached, our conversation lulled to a soft alto sax merging with eager trumpet, joining Mr.Batchelor's rhythmic feet and sounds to create an impromptu jazz standard session.

Onstage, embraced by three tiers of bar and dance floor, the Skatalites brought an anticipatory audience to the fore by mixing intricate interpretations of familiar classics with famous raggae
renditions as interspersed by JAH! JAH! JAH! shoutings. Yes, it was truly sweet to indulge in the honey warm melody of "Sugar, Sugar" as sung by Ms. Shaffer. (Nothing like a tropical romance.)

Indeed, Vin Gordon, Karl "Cannonball" Bryan and the rest of the Skatalites did make us all in the concert hall, relax and move, shake, sway. "It's magic," I mused while noting the group's rich, gold tone. And then, just as if to echo that thought, the effervescent Lester "Ska" Sterling danced a happy jig while the legends launched into the night's last number. The lyrics of which flowed like this: "Oh, the stars shine above on our golden love."

13.11.04
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