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Album Review

Prior to becoming an ace mainstream jazz pianist in the U.S., native Jamaican Monty Alexander played on countless sessions at Studio One in Kingston — well before reggae, rocksteady, and even ska crossed the seas. Since 1998, secure in his jazz credentials, he has been reminding listeners of those roots, cranking out album after album and managing to unite jazz and reggae in a sometimes irresistible fusion. This time, Alexander reaches further back to pre-reggae Jamaican pop from the late '60s/early '70s, bringing along a guitar-slinging friend from the old days, Ernest Ranglin. On previous Jamaican-accented albums, Alexander sometimes sounded as if he was making an effort to hold back his prodigious technique in order to keep things simple. But here he sounds more comfortable paring down his playing to the basics while still throwing in an occasional sly quote or monster lick, now going more and more to his evocative melodica playing. Ranglin brings a brittle, staccato touch to everything he touches, and the rhythm section careens gently along, with only rare hints of a ska feel and without the overpowering dub-flavored bass of previous Alexander Jamaican outings like "Meets Sly and Robbie" and parts of "Goin' Yard." Desmond Dekker's "Israelites," one of the first genuine Jamaican hits in the U.S., moves and grooves much like the original while allowing for some jazz licks. Less well-known in America, perhaps, are some other choices like Ken Boothe's "Freedom Street" and the Congos' "Row Fisherman." Moving up a bit on the time scale, Alexander and Ranglin include the Burning Spear signature tune "Marcus Garvey" and with heads bowed, they close the album with a dignified duo rendition of the Hon. Robert Nesta Marley's "Redemption Song." The six-channel surround mix on this hybrid SACD is simple and strikingly consistent, with Quentin Baxter's drums and Junior Jazz's scratching rhythm guitar coming from the rear channels, and Alexander, Ranglin, and occasional hand percussion coming from the front. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi


Born: 19 June 1932 in Robin's Hall, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A pioneering force behind the rise of Caribbean music, guitar virtuoso Ernest Ranglin was born in Manchester, Jamaica, in 1932. He began playing ukulele as a boy, soon graduating to guitar; while in his teens he began performing live both locally and in the Bahamas, often in tandem with the young Monty Alexander. Ranglin's session work at the famed Studio One helped give birth to the ska phenomenon, which during the late '50s began taking Jamaica by storm. He finally began attracting international...
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Rocksteady, Ernest Ranglin
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