Support comes from Nérija, a seven piece Jazz ensemble who play a mellow mix of African and Caribbean sounds rooted in an urban London experience. They emerged from Tomorrow’s Warriors, the youth programme created by the Jazz Warriors. It’s an entertaining way to open the show and they’re a great group of musicians.
Ernie Ranglin has just turned 84 and his seven decades on the music scene has seen him do pretty much everything within the world of Jamaican Mento, Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae. He produced and played on Millie Smalls’ seminal hit “My Boy Lollipop” in 1964, gave Bob Marley guitar playing tips, played on Junior Murvin’s classic 1976 album “Police And Thieves” and played on countless sessions for seminal producer Duke Reid, the owner of the Trojan and Treasure Isle labels.
He’s finally decided to call it a day as far as live touring goes, and is currently on a farewell world tour. His final date in London is here at the Barbican, where he’s joined by an all-star band comprising Tony Allen, the Afrobeat drummer who played with Fela Kuti, bassist Ira Coleman, Senegalese multi-instrumentalist Cheikh Lo, British saxophonist Soweto Kinch and pianist Alex Wilson.
Alex Wilson was the only one to address the crowd, thanking us for coming and introducing some of the songs. Ernie Ranglin never spoke but cheerfully acknowledged the applause that greeted his solos as he moved around the stage throughout the set. Whenever he wanted someone to solo he would stand next to them, frequently going over to Soweto Kinch who played with enthusiasm, perfectly complementing Ranglin’s mellow guitar sounds. It was a shame when Soweto Kinch left the stage about three quarters of the way through the set, as he never returned and no explanation was given as to why.
Percussionist Cheikh Lo was in great form all night. He took up his own guitar on a couple of songs while the rest of the band accompanied him and he even relieved Tony Allen on drum duties for a few songs as he expertly drummed and sang. Ira Coleman’s bass playing anchored the whole set, his deeply resonant notes and assured style keeping the whole thing together while allowing the other musicians plenty of space to play.
Ernie Ranglin cut a sprightly figure as he flitted about on the stage, clearly enjoying himself as he ran through a range of songs and styles. When playing lead guitar he would use a pick, but when he was playing rhythm guitar as another musician played a solo, he would hold the pick in his mouth. He frequently played in a percussive style, sliding his fingers on the strings to change the pitch of the notes or draping his left hand or arm over the fret board to mute the sound.
The band played from his 1997 album “Below The Bassline” and also gave a nod to The Skatalites by playing “Ball Of Fire”. Ernie Ranglin’s signature tune “Surfin'” also got a big round of applause. The encore of “Nana’s Chalk Pipe” also got a good reception and with that the entire band sauntered off stage with Ernie Ranglin waving to the crowd as he left.
Great to see this important figure in Jamaican music one last time.