Lester Sterling can still wail a mean sax at age 77, and as the last surviving original member of the Skatalites, he has a right to. It’s a slinky, almost African sound, reminiscent of not just the history of ska, but of the Ethiopian jazz scene developing a continent away. Mr. Sterling’s band, which reunited in the ’80s and has continued playing ever since, comes to SOhO this Thursday, and should not be taken for granted.
As much as the original Skatalites have contributed to the history of ska and beyond, their ’60s incarnation was as chaotic personally as their storming and sweaty first gigs. Trombonist Don Drummond, who wrote a majority of their material, suffered from bouts of mental illness, checked in and out of sanitariums, and murdered his girlfriend in 1965. When he died four years later, most of Jamaica came out in the streets for the funeral.