A Ska And Jazz Innovator Bridges Continents And Decades | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

A Ska And Jazz Innovator Bridges Continents And Decades

Play associated audio

Guitarist Ernest Ranglin is an elder statesman of Jamaican music. A self-styled composer and improviser, he has traveled and collaborated widely during his 80 years. In California last year, he teamed up with three much younger musicians from South Africa, the U.S. and Israel. The four musicians bonded and quickly recorded an album, named for the San Francisco street where they rehearsed: Avila.

Ranglin made his first guitar out of a sardine can and wire. In the '50s, he became one of the creators of the pre-reggae ska sound — and possibly the first guitarist to play the damped, staccato guitar lines Jamaicans call "scratching." Ranglin played on Bob Marley's first studio session and on Millie Small's 1964 breakout hit "My Boy Lollipop." Despite all his roots and pop credentials, Ranglin's true musical destiny lay elsewhere: in jazz.

The Avila song "Ska Rango" resembles old-school swing with a reggae lilt. What's not to love? Ranglin and his young music collaborators put a Jamaican rock-steady feel to the South African jazz classic "Mannenberg" — the song that put the great jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand in those days) on the map. Ranglin's take is both an homage and a reinvention.

Ranglin has an easy grace to his playing that lets him bridge continents and decades without breaking a sweat. His song "Memories of Senegal" has a tricky rhythm, but when Ranglin takes a solo, he soars like a bird, untroubled by the shifting terrain beneath him.

It's rare and refreshing to find a musician who has experienced so much and somehow held onto all of it. Ernest Ranglin is a walking, guitar-picking musical history book. On his newest project, Avila, you can feel the way the other three players — young, but also seasoned — respond to his masterful facility with Caribbean, American and African idioms. This is music built to last by a sage old cat who still happens to be one of the most interesting, and classiest, guitarists around.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Not My Job: Skier Mikaela Shiffrin Gets Quizzed On Downhill Cheese Races

If you think downhill ski racing is dangerous, then you've never seen the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling Races, in which competitors hurl their bodies down a steep hill, chasing a wheel of cheese.
NPR

Spread Of Palm Oil Production Into Africa Threatens Great Apes

Palm oil growers are setting their sights on Africa as they amp up production. More than half of the land that's been set aside for plantations in Africa overlaps with ape habitats, researchers say.
WAMU 88.5

Democrats Push To Overturn Hobby Lobby Ruling

Virginia's Tim Kaine and other Democrats are trying to overturn the ruling with legislation they say will protect female workers.
NPR

Friday Feline Fun: A Ranking Of The Most Famous Internet Cats

Forget the Forbes Celebrity 100. This is the Friskies 50 — the new definitive guide of the most influential cats on the Internet. The list is based on a measure of the cats' social media reach.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.