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Bless Up

by Ernest Ranglin

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  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

    Ranglin met the band at In the Pocket, a studio in the woods of Sonoma County. Most of the basic tracks were cut live, in one room, in glorious analogue sound, with Eric Levy (Garaj Mahal, Night Ranger) adding his keyboard expertise on several tunes, most notably the free flowing arrangement of Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Blues for a Hip King.” As the session unfolded, Ranglin and the band members urged each other on to new levels of creative discovery.
    The international mash up of “Bond Street Express” opens with Levy’s sustained keyboard notes suggesting the droning of an Indian tanpura, before Fine and Herman come in with a slow one drop reggae rhythm to support a Ranglin solo full of shimmering, Arabic flavored single notes and Wes Montgomery-like chord clusters. Herman’s subtle percussion accents and a bluesy horn section add a comforting density to the track. Levy’s measured bass notes on piano also play off of Ranglin’s sustained mid-range tones for a meditative take on Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro.” Ibrahim’s music has always inspired the musicians in this band and, with their help, Ranglin channels the essence of Ibrahim with his own unique interpretation. As was evident from their take on Ibrahim’s “Manenberg” featured on Avila, the first album Ranglin cut with this group, Ibrahim’s music brings out something deeply spiritual in this band.
    If Duke Ellington ever heard reggae, he might have written a song like “Bless Up.” Korty tickles the ivories and plays Hammond B3 organ, while Ranglin flutters through the mix, weaving in and out of the counter melodies played by a swinging horn section. “Follow On” and “You Too” are sultry, laid back reggae tunes, while Korty’s “El Mescalero” blends Latin rhythms that suggest tango, son, calypso and Tex-Mex, giving Ranglin an opportunity for a breathtaking display of jazzy flamenco influenced fretwork. “Ska Renzo” conjures the spirit of Jamaica in the 60s, with a few dub effects in the arrangement to highlight another brilliant, brittle solo by Ranglin. Every tune on the album moves in different directions, making for a timeless international excursion held together by Ranglin’s inventive guitar. “I love playing with these musicians,” Ranglin says. “Like me, they’re interested in music from all over the world. They make it easy for me to express the emotions I feel. I think working together on this album allowed us to do something special.”
    After the sessions, Mindel and Ex-Centric Sound System’s Yossi Fine, who has produced and mixed efforts by Vieux Farka Touré, Hassan Hakmoun, Hadag Hahash, Dancehall singer Anthony B and other notable reggae and world music artists, mixed the album. “It was inspiring to be working with Ernest Ranglin and mixing this music,” Fine says. “A chance of a lifetime. The album takes the listener through every era of Ernest’s music. In the late 50s, Ernest Ranglin started adding rhythm accents to the tunes Coxsone Dodd was cutting at Jamaica’s Studio One by playing muted upstrokes on his guitar. That simple lick became the characteristic sound of a new groove called ska. His playing also laid the foundation for reggae’s relaxed rhythm, ensuring Ranglin’s place in the pantheon of innovative guitarists.
    After years of studio work in Jamaica, including the first session of a singer named Robert Marley, Ranglin moved to London to play with the Island Records studio band. His jazz influenced approach was featured on countless records, including Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop,” the first international ska hit and The Melodians’ classic “Rivers of Babylon.”
    Ranglin played with pianists Monty Alexander and Randy Weston in the ‘70s. His fluid bend of jazz, world music and reggae fit perfectly with their ideas about music without boundaries and brought him to the attention of a new international audience. His deceptively simple rhythms and sinuous leads created another genre, reggae jazz, showcased on groundbreaking solo albums like Below the Bassline, Memories of Barber Mac and In Search of the Lost Riddim, recorded in Senegal with Baaba Maal and his band. His reggae jazz style fully flowered on 2001’s Gotcha!, the album that prefigured his ongoing creative surge. Never one to stand still, Ranglin recently played the Blue Note in New York with Monty Alexander and rising reggae star Chronixx on a show billed as A History of Reggae + Jamaican Music. The audience included Ranglin’s mentor Chris Blackwell. In a backstage interview Chronixx, praised Ranglin’s ability to blend the past, present and future in his playing. Gigs like this showcase Ranglin’s ability to bring out the best in the musicians he works with, young and old. His playing continues to be marked by his serene approach and a playful sensibility that often conceals his jaw-dropping virtuosity. He was inducted into the Jamaican Music Hall of fame in 2008.
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      $10 USD  or more

     

  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    “The 16 tracks on this leisurely CD span the rowdy, the regal and the ruminative. They star Ernest Ranglin, who might be called the father of ska. He’s a Jamaican guitarist who can play both pensively and pyrotechnically, and even now, in his early 80s, he’s always tasteful and frequently startling. Ranglin wrote most of the tracks on this expansive project, and the music is sequenced perfectly for a party on a summer night. This is user-friendly music, world-beat style with a pronounced Kingston accent, and one can imagine how Ranglin and his Avilans might wail on this material in a club.
    Ranglin’s pensive mode takes over on “Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro,” the warm second track, reprised at the end in “Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro (Home),” an even more relaxed and dreamy take of the same Abdullah Ibrahim tune. And while ska, rocksteady and reggae rhythms dominate, other feels also pertain, like the straight blues of the title track.
    You could call Bless Up a jam-band record. While Ranglin is the focus (and a hell of an arranger), the other musicians also work magic. Check out how the saxophones and brass, bottomed by Charlie Wilson’s trombone, swagger atop “O Meets R,” a tune by producer Tony Mindel that could pass for a remix from the Clash’s Sandinista! “Rock Me Steady” features great big Ranglin wah-wah first and rapid-fire jazz guitar lines later, along with Eric Levy’s snaky piano and Inx Herman’s drums.
    The tunes are largely midtempo, the arrangements straightforward, the rhythms solid if occasionally predictable. But that isn’t necessarily bad: “Good Friends,” the sentimental track setting the stage for that second, extra-mystical “Bra Joe,” is an album highlight. Nothing wrong with being pretty, a notion Ranglin’s been spreading since he first hit 50 years ago with Millie Small on “My Boy Lollipop,” the world’s introduction to ska. He remains one of that catchy genre’s foremost ambassadors.”

    Includes unlimited streaming of Bless Up via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ... more
    ships out within 10 days

      $12 USD or more 

     

  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    Vinyl version of the instant Ernest Ranglin Classic. “The 16 tracks on this leisurely CD span the rowdy, the regal and the ruminative. They star Ernest Ranglin, who might be called the father of ska. He’s a Jamaican guitarist who can play both pensively and pyrotechnically, and even now, in his early 80s, he’s always tasteful and frequently startling. Ranglin wrote most of the tracks on this expansive project, and the music is sequenced perfectly for a party on a summer night. This is user-friendly music, world-beat style with a pronounced Kingston accent, and one can imagine how Ranglin and his Avilans might wail on this material in a club.
    Ranglin’s pensive mode takes over on “Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro,” the warm second track, reprised at the end in “Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro (Home),” an even more relaxed and dreamy take of the same Abdullah Ibrahim tune. And while ska, rocksteady and reggae rhythms dominate, other feels also pertain, like the straight blues of the title track.
    You could call Bless Up a jam-band record. While Ranglin is the focus (and a hell of an arranger), the other musicians also work magic. Check out how the saxophones and brass, bottomed by Charlie Wilson’s trombone, swagger atop “O Meets R,” a tune by producer Tony Mindel that could pass for a remix from the Clash’s Sandinista! “Rock Me Steady” features great big Ranglin wah-wah first and rapid-fire jazz guitar lines later, along with Eric Levy’s snaky piano and Inx Herman’s drums.
    The tunes are largely midtempo, the arrangements straightforward, the rhythms solid if occasionally predictable. But that isn’t necessarily bad: “Good Friends,” the sentimental track setting the stage for that second, extra-mystical “Bra Joe,” is an album highlight. Nothing wrong with being pretty, a notion Ranglin’s been spreading since he first hit 50 years ago with Millie Small on “My Boy Lollipop,” the world’s introduction to ska. He remains one of that catchy genre’s foremost ambassadors.”

    Includes unlimited streaming of Bless Up via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ... more
    ships out within 10 days

      $18 USD or more 

     

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about

“The 16 tracks on this leisurely CD span the rowdy, the regal and the ruminative. They star Ernest Ranglin, who might be called the father of ska. He’s a Jamaican guitarist who can play both pensively and pyrotechnically, and even now, in his early 80s, he’s always tasteful and frequently startling. Ranglin wrote most of the tracks on this expansive project, and the music is sequenced perfectly for a party on a summer night. This is user-friendly music, world-beat style with a pronounced Kingston accent, and one can imagine how Ranglin and his Avilans might wail on this material in a club.
Ranglin’s pensive mode takes over on “Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro,” the warm second track, reprised at the end in “Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro (Home),” an even more relaxed and dreamy take of the same Abdullah Ibrahim tune. And while ska, rocksteady and reggae rhythms dominate, other feels also pertain, like the straight blues of the title track.
You could call Bless Up a jam-band record. While Ranglin is the focus (and a hell of an arranger), the other musicians also work magic. Check out how the saxophones and brass, bottomed by Charlie Wilson’s trombone, swagger atop “O Meets R,” a tune by producer Tony Mindel that could pass for a remix from the Clash’s Sandinista! “Rock Me Steady” features great big Ranglin wah-wah first and rapid-fire jazz guitar lines later, along with Eric Levy’s snaky piano and Inx Herman’s drums.
The tunes are largely midtempo, the arrangements straightforward, the rhythms solid if occasionally predictable. But that isn’t necessarily bad: “Good Friends,” the sentimental track setting the stage for that second, extra-mystical “Bra Joe,” is an album highlight. Nothing wrong with being pretty, a notion Ranglin’s been spreading since he first hit 50 years ago with Millie Small on “My Boy Lollipop,” the world’s introduction to ska. He remains one of that catchy genre’s foremost ambassadors.”

credits

released May 20, 2014

Featuring Ernest Ranglin, Yossi Fine, Jonathan Korty, Inx Herman, Michael Peloquin, Charlie Wilson, Modesto Briseno, Eric Levy

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Ernest Ranglin Ocho Rios, Jamaica

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