I’m swiftly becoming a fan of this guy.
Without descending into the no man’s land of so-called smooth jazz (a music that should never have been associated with any form of jazz whatsoever), Jamaican-born Ranglin plays a style of music on his guitar that is easy on the ear without being infantile. Simple, pleasurable music doesn’t have to be the musical equivalent of baby food. And jazz doesn’t always have to measure up to the grueling standards of John Coltrane or Charlie Parker to be considered “for real.” Ranglin proves this.
On this CD, Ranglin once again displays his masterful ability to make the difficult seem all too easy. His fingers run through thickets of both simple and complex melodies as if they were no challenge whatsoever — only joyful means of expression.
What distinguishes Ranglin’s guitar playing is his Jamaican background, which shows through much more on this CD than on his last Telarc release, Modern Answers to Old Problems, which was closer to the standard jazz mode. In fact, he doesn’t just let it show through, he trumpets the reggae roots of his sound with distinctive pride, while overlaying the always-hypnotic, laid-back reggae rhythms with often-fiery jazz melodies that raise the form to a new level.
Keith A. Owens is a Detroit-based freelance writer and musician. E-mail him at email@example.com.