Avila Featuring Ernest Ranglin (Avila Records, 2012)
This instrumental guitar-oriented album serves as the perfect background for a summer vacation or to relax at home. Legendary Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin uses his enviable skill to perform a series of captivating melodies inspired by various forms of the African diaspora, from funk jazz and R&B to Jamaican ska, reggae, Afrobeat and even visions from the motherland of Africa.
Ranglin has just turned 80 and he is as good as ever. He is joined by multigenerational band of reputable musicians from around the world including Yosi Fine (Excentric Sound System, David Bowie, Lou Reed ) on bass, Ian Inx Herman (Mickey Hart Band, Paul Simon) drums, Jonathan Korty (Vinyl) on piano and keyboards, Ryan Scott (Monophonics) on trumpet, Alex Baky (Monophonics) on saxophone. Additional guests included in the recording sessions are Jonathan Chi on lap steel guitar, Evan Frazer on melodica and Alexis Rezon on percussion.
The project came about in 2011. Ranglin was going to perform at the High Sierra Music Festival in July of 2011 so Tony Mindel put together a band to support his concert. “Ernest has an incredible musical ear and a work ethic and stamina that’s amazing,” says Mindel. “I decided to put together a dream band with Inx Herman from South Africa, Yossi Fine from Israel and Jonathan Korty from California. They clicked on stage and we decided to see if we could capture that same magic in the studio.”
Ranglin was only available for week so the Avila project was recorded live in the studio in three days. “Ernest showed up with beautiful charts written out, note for note, but he allowed the other players to add their own color and style,” adds Mindel. “They sound like they’ve been playing together for years.” The title of the album comes from Avila Street in San Francisco. That’s where rehearsals took place, in the house Mindel grew up in.
“Ernest is a generous soul and perhaps the greatest living guitar player. Working with him has been a career high and the greatest honor of my life,” reveals Mindel.
“I love playing with young musicians,” says Ernest Ranglin. “I’m still learning and everyone I meet has something to teach me. I always play my best and try to make each session a pleasing experience. I just hope the good vibes will follow me.”
Ernest Ranglin gained his reputation in the late 1950s, as guitarist in the legendary Studio One Band. He added rhythm accents to the pieces Coxsone Dodd was producing, by playing muted upstrokes on his guitar. That straightforward, scratchy lick became the characteristic sound of a new groove called ska. His style also laid the basis for reggae’s relaxed rhythm, guaranteeing Ranglin’s place in the honor list of innovative guitarists.
After years of session work in Jamaica, including Bob Marley’s first recording date, Ranglin moved to London. He played in the Island Records studio band and backed up artists like Cannonball Adderley at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in Soho. His jazz modulated approach to playing and arranging was featured on numerous records, including Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop,” the first worldwide ska hit, Toots and the Maytals’ “54-46 Was My Number” and The Melodians’ classic “Rivers of Babylon.”
Ranglin performed with jazz pianists Monty Alexander and Randy Weston in the 1970s. His elegant mix of jazz, world music and reggae attracted the attention of an international audience. His style is known as reggae jazz and it appears in various solo recordings, including Below the Bassline, Memories of Barber Mac and In Search of the Lost Riddim, recorded in Senegal with Baaba Maal and his band.
Avila is an absolutely exquisite instrumental album featuring the free-flowing elaborate guitar work of one of the legends of Jamaican music accompanied by a remarkable band of global musicians.