Jamaica mourns one of her native sons in the passing of Lloyd Brevett, original bassist for The Skatalites, at the age of 80. Brevett was there at the beginning. It is not hyperbole to say that The Skatalites were one of the most influential bands ever, and not just in the narrow genre of Ska. Ask anybody who knows. No less an authority on Ska Music than the New York Times noted:
Mr. Brevett, a trained jazz bassist, was an original member of the Skatalites, which was formed in 1964 during the evolution of Jamaican music from American-influenced rhythm and blues and jazz to the homegrown syncopated style known as ska, the precursor of reggae, rock steady and dub. The band members were also active as studio musicians and backed up the Wailers and other groups.The Skatalites broke up in the mid-1960s but regrouped in New York 20 years later. Two of their albums, “Hi-Bop Ska!” and “Greetings From Skamania,” were nominated for Grammy Awards in the 1990s.
Not just anyone rates a NYT's obit. Or condolences from a former Jamaincan Prime Minister, who just happened to be Brevett's tour manager way back when. According to David McFadden of the Associated Press:
Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who was once a tour manager for The Skatalites, said that while the band's great horn section often drew most of the accolades, it was "Brevett who quietly provided the mesmerizing backbone to the Skatalites' sound."
"To say that Brevett was a creator of both ska and dub is not to use hyperbole," Patterson said in a statement.
Legendary Jamaican musicians say it's difficult to overestimate the role the trained jazz bassist and the rest of the original Skatalites played in developing the Caribbean island's unique music.
"He was there from the beginning," Bunny Wailer told The Associated Press. "All my bass lines from all my recordings have been attributed to bass lines from Lloyd Brevett."
Wailer, the reggae legend who was one of the original Wailers along with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, praised Brevett as a devout member of the Rastafarian faith and an elder statesman of the island's culture.
"Brother Brevett's music is eternal," Wailer said.
The Skatalites worked with everybody in the Ska-Reggae-Dub genres. In a way similar to Easy Star All Stars many of The Skatalites biggest hits were Ska reworkings of familiar tunes, even if they seemed to be strange choices for a Ska band. However, listen to the playing and the arrangements. This is some excellent musicianship working against the back beat.
Here's a little Skatalites Jukebox:...and you'll be dancing when it's all over:
Rock on, Lloyd Brevett!!! Rock On!!!