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16th of July 2018


A night with the masters

A night with the masters


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

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With over 160 years of combined life experiences, it was no surprise that Sunday's performance by renowned pianist Monty Alexander and guitarist Ernie Ranglin was a lesson in mastery.

A capacity audience filed into the grand ballroom of the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in St Andrew to witness the event which raised funds for the McCam Child Care and Development Centre, a facility that educates children with special needs.

It was the 86-year-old Ranglin who opened the masterclass. As Alexander noted, he doesn't just play the guitar he lets the instrument speak. And that it certainly did. Accompanied by a quartet which included Desi Jones on drums and Dale Haslam on bass, Ranglin drew his audience in with each piece.

He took his performance to a higher level when vocalist Jermaine Blake took the stage for The Wailers' It Hurts to Be Alone, featuring the iconic jazz guitar riffs by Ranglin. Gem Myers added more vocals to the set as she performed My Boy Lollipop, the landmark 1964 track by Millie Small which was arranged by Ranglin. Interestingly, Chris Blackwell, whose Island Records distributed the song, was in the front row at Sunday's event.

Alexander picked up where Ranglin left off, tickling the ivories to the enjoyment of those in the ballroom. The 74-year-old maestro, with more than 70 albums to his credit, drew on different genres — from jazz to the classics with Jamaican music added for good measure.

With Jason Brown on drums and J J Shakur on bass, Alexander dropped Duke Ellington's Love You Madly; his own Look Up, Sweet Lorraine made popular by Nat King Cole; as well as the engaging Concerto de Aranjuez by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. All received the Monty Alexander touch.

He would later be joined by his Harlem Kingston Express for the popular People Make the World Go Round and Burning Spear's Marcus Garvey . Ranglin accompanied them for an even more memorable set which included a cameo by singer Myrna Hague, who performed the jazz standard Our Love Is Here To Stay.

Speaking to the Jamaica Observer following his performance, Alexander said answering the call to perform in Jamaica was a no-brainer.

“Just to come home is the greatest honour, and to see people receive it with a good attitude is great because I just do what I do, whether it is here or in Montreal, where I was was the other night. I felt very comfortable and it was a beautiful audience — what can I say? To play with Ernie is deep. It goes back to the early days of my life, and Ernie was already the master and he still is.”

Ranglin was just as gracious towards his long-time friend.

“We have been playing together for so many years and we haven't seen each other for a little while. The last time we played together was at the Jazz Club in New York and that was about two years ago. Tonight it was great... as always,” he shared.

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