Jamaican guitarist and composer Ernest Ranglin. (Photo: myspace.com/ernestranglin)

Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin turned 80 this year. In one of the first big pop hits to come out of Jamaica, "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small, had Ranglin playing guitar on the session. And he became a fixture in the island's ska and reggae scene for years. He was the man with the axe on many sessions at the famed Studio One records label in Kingston. But Studio One was his money gig. Ranglin can play bubble-gum ska in his sleep. A man with his talent is bound to be drawn to more complex compositions and for the past twenty years or so, Ranglin refuses to be pinned down by ska, reggae, rocksteady. He looks for space to improvise. That is visible in a tune called Manenberg on Ranglin's just released CD "Avila". The composition was written by South African jazz piano legend Abdullah Ibrahim some years ago. The Ranglin version is much more recent. Last year he played at the High Sierra Music Festival in northern California. Ranglin traveled without a Jamaican ensemble. So the festival put together a strong backing band for him. Ranglin and his fellow players clicked, and decided to record "Avila" during the festival, the recording for which happened in three days.

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