At 82 years of age, legendary ska and reggae guitarist Ernest Ranglin is set to release a new album in May.
The album, titled Bless Up, was done in association with Avila Street Records and will be the first album from Ranglin since 2012.
The new album has 11 new compositions which fuse ska, swing, jazz, rock, and world music and showcases the musical expertise of the veteran.
Ranglin’s signature sound was largely considered the backbone of many of the hits from reggae legends Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Toots and The Maytals, and The Skatalites.
Backed by Avila, Ranglin’s new album features work with internationally acclaimed musicians Inx Herman, Jonathan Korty, and Yossi Fine.
The partnership with the international musicians followed a 2011 performance at the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, California.
Producer Tony Mindel thought the trio would be the perfect fit because of its ability to successfully shift between genres as easily as Ranglin.
Mindel refers to Ranglin as “one of the world’s greatest living guitar players” and said despite his brilliance, Ranglin was open to interpretations of his tunes from his other band members.
“He’s a generous soul, musically and otherwise, with an amazing sense of humour and a work ethic and stamina that blew away the other musicians.”
Ranglin told The Gleaner it was a great experience working with the band.
“I love playing with these musicians. Like me, they’re interested in music from all over the world. They make it easy for me to express my emotions. I think working together on this album allowed us to do something special.”
Fine described the experience as “a chance of a lifetime” and said the album would take the listener through every era of Ranglin’s music.
“It was inspiring to work with Ernest Ranglin. He was constantly adding new flavours, while staying rooted in each particular style, be it reggae, jazz or Latin grooves.”
Recorded in just three days, their 2012 effort, Avila, won international kudos for its creative fusion of styles.
Dubbing them an international band, Mindel said the more they worked together, the more natural the partnership seemed.
“Ernest is from Jamaica, Inx from South Africa, Yossi from Israel, and Jonathan is a Californian. As they worked together, the interplay became instinctive,” said Mindel.
Mindel said though the band has only been working together a short while, their sound says otherwise.
STILL GOING STRONG
“This band sounds like they’ve been playing together for years. I want people to hear this album so they’ll know Ernest is still going strong at 82, composing and playing great music that touches on all the eras of his career.”
Ranglin’s jazz-influenced approach has featured on countless records, including Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop.
The song went on to become the first international ska hit. Ranglin has worked with many great musicians, including pianists Monty Alexander and Randy Weston in the ’70s, and has won numerous awards both locally and internationally for his contributions to music.
In 2008, Ranglin was inducted into the Jamaican Music Hall of Fame by the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates.
Shereita Grizzle, Gleaner Writer