Ernest Ranglin and Monty Alexander make history with the fusion of
jazz and Jamaican popular music
Here we are in muggy late August — what the ancient Romans called the "dog days" of summer. For many of us, the season requires a certain soundtrack. Maybe it's bossa nova, upbeat R&B or chilled-out electronic music, but for me, the perfect summer sound has a specific origin: the island of Jamaica.
While the island nation's most famous musical invention is reggae, the pulse of all Jamaican music (including ska, dub, dancehall, mento and rocksteady) feels like summer. Each of these genres possesses infectious, upbeat tempos that inspire a relaxed feeling.
The selections here draw from these Jamaican musical inventions and meld them with the feeling of jazz. In each of these songs, one can hear the unmistakable tempo of ska, the precursor of reggae. Ska originated in the late '50s and drew heavily from both American black music (including jazz) and Caribbean calypso.
Here we have an interesting situation where music that grew out of mid-century jazz has itself been re-interpreted, creating a new jazz sound in the process. It's a sort of full-circle take on a little summer playlist.
Song: Pressure Drop
Perhaps the most famous and successful Jamaican jazz musician of all time, Monty Alexander has often included musical nods to his homeland in his recorded output. While he's known for his Oscar Peterson-influenced straight-ahead stylings, Alexander's bright piano work also shines when he's playing something with a ska or reggae rhythm. Here, he works with legendary jazz and ska guitarist Ernest Ranglin and vocalist Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals.
By Matt Fleeger