JULY 23, 2012
Avila Sessions To Be Released On August 28th
Jamaican Legend Ernest Ranglin Teams Up With Musical Dream Team
Jamaican musical legend Ernest Ranglin recently returned to the studio to record with an inspired group of musicians from around the world on a new project called Avila, due out on Avila Street records on August 28th. We've reprinted the full details of the project's press release below.
When legendary guitarist Ernest Ranglin came to playthe High Sierra Music Festival in July of 2011, TonyMindel decided to put together a band to providesympathetic backing for his appearance. "Ernest has an incredible musical ear and a work ethic and stamina that's amazing," Mindel says. "I decided to put together a dream band with Inx Herman from South Africa (Paul Simon), Yossi Fine from Israel (David Bowie, Lou Reed) 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 in California for less than a week, so the band had to work fast. Avila was recorded livein the studio in three days, sandwiched between shows at the High Sierra Festival and HealdsburgJazz Festival. The result is a collection that combines bedrock grooves with Ranglin's free flowingbrilliance. "Ernest showed up with beautiful charts written out, note for note, but he allowed the otherplayers to add their own color and style," Mindel says. "They sound like they've been playingtogether for years." The band rehearsed on Avila Street in San Francisco, in the house Mindel grew up in. The basement has a listening room designed by his father. It made a perfect rehearsal space, so they borrowed the name for the band and the album.
Abdullah Ibrahim's "Manenberg" opens the album with a lilting rock steady beat. Korty's sparklingpiano and Fine's deep bass support Ranglin's mellow, muted solo. "Memories of Senegal" first appeared on Modern Answers to Old Problems, Ranglin's Afrobeat album. The tune is played simultaneously in 6/8 and 4/4. It took Ranglin a while to explain the concept to the horn players, but the result is a smooth combination of R&B and Afrobeat, with Ranglin's chiming chords and Alexis Rezon's percussion accents set off by Korty's smoky Hammond B-3. Ranglin's swinging "SkaRango" bubbles along with an arrangement that suggests a meeting of Count Basie and Prince Buster. Ranglin's permutations of tempo and melody incorporate his expertise with jazz, reggae and diverseAfrican styles.
On the funky side, there's Fine's "Ernossi," with an arrangement that nods toward Bob Marley's early hits to compliment Ranglin's rippling single note runs and Korty's mellow "Uncle Funky," alate night groove played with a bluesy, urban feel. Mindel co-produced the album with Ranglin, Yossi Fine and Jonathan Chi. "It was a life changing experience," Mindel says. "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." Ranglin shares Mindel's enthusiasm for the sessions. "I love playing with young musicians," he says. "I'm still learning and everyone I meet has something to teach me. Ialways play my best and try to make each session a pleasing experience. I just hope the good vibes will follow me."
The Avila sessions went so well, that Ranglin and the band recently returned to the studio to completeanother album, to be released in the Fall of 2012.
Ernest Ranglin earned his reputation with a combination of hard work and innate musical prowess. In the late 50s, as guitarist in the Studio One Band, he started adding rhythm accents to the tunes Coxsone Dodd was producing, by playing muted upstrokes on his guitar. That simple, scratchy 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 Bob Marley's first recording date, Ranglin moved to London. He played in the Island Records studio band and backed up artists like Cannonball Adderleyat Ronnie Scott's jazz club in Soho. His jazz inflected approach to playing and arranging was featured on countless records, including Millie Small's "My Boy Lollipop," the first world wide ska hit, Toots and the Maytals' "54-46 Was My Number" and The Melodians' classic "Rivers of Babylon."
Ranglin played with jazz pianists Monty Alexander and Randy Weston in the '70s. His fluid bend ofjazz, world music and reggae fit perfectly with their ideas about music without boundaries andbrought his playing to the attention of an international audience. His deceptively simple rhythms and sinuous leads created reggae jazz, showcased on 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.
Ranglin turns 80 this year and his fretwork is still marked by a playful sensibility that conceals his jaw-dropping virtuosity, qualities that are evident on every track of Avila. Ranglin's guitar work iscurrently featured on the #1 hit "Sing," written by Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Weber to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee. He'll be finishing up 2012 as part of the Jamaican Legends Tour, playing with old pals Monty Alexander and Sly and Robbie