Eastern Standard Time
Ska-jazz bands are the most demanding and least populated branch of today's ska family, but Eastern Standard Time is a band which should be getting more of their due for the expert rendition of instrumental roots ska. Having nurtured and performed a solid repertoire of tunes and grooves in America's capitol over the past few years, the band now offers their debut CD, a ska statement as sharp and tight as any traditional band out there. They are, in fact, somewhat *more* jazz than other bands with the ska-jazz label. While other bands sometimes seem uncomfortable staying in the roots ska pocket, EST stays right where the music lives and burns the torch for Skatalites-flavor jazzy ska like no other. Their rendition of well-known compositions from the world of ska ("Housewives' Choice" with Eli Jai and Chuck Brown putting in a fine turn as guest vocalists) to classic jazz (Monk's "Bemsha Swing" gets the skank) provides enough instrumental prowess to secure EST's place at the top ranks. And, hey, speaking of that, Coolie Ranx also appears with a cameo on "Mad Dog," the only track on the album that really departs from the jazz club formula. Eastern Standard Time isn't insistent on pushing the envelope with the genre; they just want to play impeccable ska. The whole band bears the responsibility there, but extra credit for impeccability is surely due to the man tickling the keys, Mr. Eric Schwarz. It's a pleasure to watch his fingers dance along the piano live and the album captures his spirit well, especially on Gillespie's "Be Bop," where he's joined by The Sledge, trumpeter for The Toasters, in an equally impressive performance.