Liquidaires Lookin' Up

Since the mid-‘90s, the Liquidaires have been Toronto’s pre-eminent (if criminally underappreciated) ska-jazz ensemble. In that time they’ve stretched out beyond the confines of the ska-jazz label into what they now call "New World Music.” What that means is they’ve mixed elements of dance music from around the world into their groove blueprint. Lookin’ Up is as cosmopolitan as Toronto, taking us on a subway ride that stops in Jamaica, Trinidad, Detroit, New Orleans, West Africa, and Cuba. None of this comes at the price of cohesiveness, though. Whether playing R&B or soca-inflected tunes, soul is the consistent theme. The various members’ impressive musical pedigrees are too extensive and diverse to list here, suffice to say they’re players in every sense of the word. Great tunes, clever arrangements and gifted musicianship conspire to make this a stand-out groove recording, and — believe it or not — they’re even better live. Lookin’ Up may be too diverse for the average ska-punk fan, but it’s danceable enough to rambunctiously skirt the insular universe of world music geekdom. Highly recommended. (Independent)