Still hot after 50 years

The cover looks bland to the point of boring. But the content on this newly re-released 1965 recording is sizzling hot.

Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin is one of those brilliant, underrated musicians who earned his bread and butter as a journeyman on early international pop hits such as My Boy Lollipop. But it is in recordings such as this one, done for Jamaica's Federal Records label, that his clean, bright articulation, laser- sharp fingering and omnivorous blend of everything from bebop and ska to reggae and rhythm 'n' blues, shone brightest.

From the opening, Sly Mongoose, with its waltz time and time signature experiments a la Dave Brubeck's Time Out album, Ranglin and his quartet are smoking.

While there is a dire lack of liner notes, it is likely that the line-up here includes fellow Jamaican jazz stalwarts - pianist wunderkind Leslie Butler and drummer Carl Mcleod - with whom Ranglin recorded two other Federal Records albums.

The tight musicianship is jaw-dropping. Listen to the duet section on Sly Mongoose as Butler doodles classical scales while Ranglin finger-picks his way through an improv melody with minimum vibration despite the evident intimacy of the microphone set-up.

  • JAZZ

    JAZZ JAMAICA

    Ernest Ranglin

    Dub Store Records

    5 stars

From there, it just gets better. Among the standouts, the astonishing Water Come To Me Eye, where the deceptive Bach-like piano opening notes give way to driving samba dance rhythms before the quartet dives into bouncy bebop.

This genre mash-up is, quite simply, awesome music-making that still speaks volumes 50 years after it was made.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2016, with the headline 'Still hot after 50 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe