Toots Hibbert is endowed with one of the great voices of his era, a wonderfully textured instrument that combines the peppery zest of his native Jamaica with deep soul and gospel from North America, especially the sweet sounds of Memphis. From their formation in the early '60s, the original Maytals, which included Jerry Matthias and Raleigh Gordon, were right in the thick of things as ska and rock steady morphed into reggae. The Maytals' unique soul infusion produced a slew of classics, especially on the albums Funky Kingston and Reggae Got Soul. The original Maytals split some 30 years ago, but Toots continues to lead a version of the band, including the current octet, and his glorious pipes remain golden. Flip & Twist (D & F Music), released this week, sometimes edges toward more contemporary R&B in delineating Toots's piquant balance, even opting for rambunctious hip-hop reggae dashes on a few tunes. Toots's phrasing and tone are brilliant on the knock-out openers, the gospel tinged "Almighty Way" and Al Green-like "Perfect Lover." And if the reggae hitch is a little hard to find sometimes amid the flipping and twisting, the righteous rhythm reasserts itself big time on a marvelous version of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." 18+.
Tue., May 25, 8 p.m., 2010