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Ernest Ranglin and Avila - Bless Up

Ernest Ranglin and Avila - Bless Up

Ernest Ranglin and Avila - Bless Up

By on - Comment

A group of musicians panning for gold.


Avila are a collective of top Californian session players from various ensembles spanning multiple genres. Ernest Ranglin is, well, Ernest Ranglin - the greatest guitarist in Jamaican history.

ernestAfter the Avila backed Ranglin in 2011 at the High Sierra Music Festival and they decided to cut an 8 track album Avila, released in 2012. It was laid down in just 3 days – and it showed in the sketching feel to the tunes and slightly rough edge to the production. But the results were enjoyable enough to warrant a reunion for second collection of experiments and audio doodles. It features double the number of instrumentals this time with added dubby reverb and more of a reggae slant to the myriad blends.

These are still loose jams that often start as call and response and then take shape. Jazz, reggae, ska, Afro-Latin and African music all bubble to the surface at different times. Yet none of this should hamper your listening pleasure – Bless Up is not an ornate intricately worked jewel, so much as a group of musicians panning for gold.

Ernest doesn’t play many dextrous runs up and down the fretboard. He is cautious and conciliatory – working in short phrases, textures and fragmented chords. We hear excursions into filmic jazzy dub (Bond Street Express, Rock Me Steady, You Too) and big band boogie (Bless Up, Good Friends). Where on Avila there was a cover of South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim here there are three: the extended drum-less piano jazz odyssey of Bra Joe from Kilimanjaro (reworked twice) and the swaying bar room tribute of Blues for a Hip King.

In terms of Ernest’s latterday jazz reggae albums, the benchmark remains his and Monty Alexander’s Below the Bassline. But enjoy this for what it is - some musicians exploring, having fun and feeling each other out. It’s a very pleasant, immersive listen for a relaxed summer’s day on the balcony, by the river or soaking in the bath.

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