One Love Brass Band, Skatober in New Orleans (Independent)

One Love Brass Band, Skatober in New Orleans, album cover, OffBeat Magazine, February 2014

New Orleans is one of those rare places where ska and reggae never fell out of favor, due in part to its strong Caribbean legacy but also to its history of trad jazz: there’s always a home here for horn players, fashion be damned. As befits their name, the One Love crew takes a novel approach to NOLA brass band stylings on their debut EP, covering two Skatalites classics, Bob Marley’s deathless “One Love / People Get Ready” medley, and a take on “Message to You Rudy” that hews much closer to the Dandy Livingstone original than the Specials’ more famous version. But even though they handle the blue beat perfectly—Boyana Trayanova may be the best ska drummer in the city—they often do so at the expense of the city’s traditions. Only their version of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” which lurches appreciably through all three styles, drives home their fusion; the rest of the time, including on their own solid original “Ringo (The Bear),” they merely sound like a ska band with a tuba player. It’ll probably get them some work until they embolden themselves a little.