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Photo by Terry Way
Tracking a Legend
Ernest Ranglin’s Bless Up is an ambitious, well-realized summation of the veteran guitarist and composer’s musical vision, but for record label owner and producer Anthony Mindel, it’s also part of what he describes as “the ultimate experience—something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
“I’ve been listening to Ernest’s music since high school,” he explains. “I grew up in the Bay Area, and lots of ska and reggae gets played in Northern California. That music just seems to fit the lifestyle, and I certainly took it to heart. If I had to pick one style of music to listen to on a desert island, it would be Ernest’s, because it’s got the jazz, reggae, ska, and world music sounds I love.”
Mindel began working with Ranglin in 2011 when he assembled the aces in the band he dubbed Avila—also the name of his record label—to support the guitarist at the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, California. The resulting interplay inspired Mindel to take Ranglin and his new compadres to In the Pocket studio, nestled amidst the redwoods of Sonoma County, to cut 2012’s Avila.
“Bless Up takes their collaboration to a new level,” says Mindel. “I really want people to hear this album so they’ll know Ernest is still going strong at 82, composing and playing great music that touches on all eras of his career. Ernest showed up for the sessions with beautifully written charts—and they were handwritten, not done on a computer like all the charts you see today.
The album has a real analog integrity and the band sounds like they’ve been playing together for years. And while nobody knows Ernest’s music like Ernest, he was very open to suggestions from the other musicians.”
Ranglin’s playmates in Avila fit naturally into the guitarist-composer’s internationalist perspective. Bassist Yossi Fine is from Israel, drummer Inx Herman hails from South Africa, and keyboardist Jonathan Korty is a Californian.
“Working with Ernest and being his friend means everything to me,” Mindel relates. “It’s the culmination of all I’ve dreamed about musically, and I’m constantly inspired by his work ethic, virtuosity, humor, and generosity. We’d like to make more albums with Ernest for as long as he’s able to keep composing and recording.”