“The days may be getting shorter and the nights longer. Winter may be on its way, but do not despair.
We have an antidote. Just listen to this album once a week, for the next few weeks and you will feel much better. Below The Bassline came out in 1996 on the Island Jamaica Jazz label, an offshoot of the Island label, which was originally founded in 1959 in Jamaica by Chris Blackwell. Only a few albums came out under this banner, including an excellent album from Dean Fraser called “Big Up!”. This album is a collection of Jamaican reggae tunes played by jazz musicians. Ernest Ranglin is a living legend. He has played guitar with all the greats as a session musician, including Bob Marley & The Wailers, Prince Buster and the Skatalites. He has recorded and arranged for Clement “Coxsone ” Dodd’s famous Studio One label. He also played guitar and arranged “My Boy Lollipop”, which was a huge hit for Millie Small in the UK in 1964. This shows his reggae credentials. His jazz credentials were underlined when he joined the house band at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho, in the early sixties as the resident guitarist.
He is joined on this album by fellow Jamaican, Monty Alexander on piano and melodica, and two Americans, Ira Coleman on acoustic bass and Idris Muhammad on drums. The tracks are a mixture of well-known reggae songs and a few Ranglin originals. These include Burning Spear’s “Black Disciples”, Fred “Toots” Hibbert’s “56-46 (Was My Number), Augustus Pablo’s “ King Tubby Meets the Rockers”, The Abyssinians’ “Satta Massagana”, and The Skatalites’ “Ball Of Fire”, with The Skatalites’ Roland Alphonso guesting on saxophones. However, several tracks are written by Ranglin, including the title track and my personal favourite, “Surfin”.
The main thing that we love about this album is that is sounds so good. It is a fun album, despite the fact that the music is played by serious musicians. We still regularly play this album during our demonstrations, even seventeen years later, because even customers who are not particularly reggae or jazz fans are still able to enjoy this album as well. It is rare to find an album that cuts across so many barriers. When we play Below The Bassline the atmosphere changes in the room, everyone cheers up instantly, and smiles have been known to break out. The extra bonus is that is that it is an ideal tool to test a hi-fi system. The acoustic bass goes down very low, and the repeated high notes on the guitar, part of Ranglin’s signature sound, make for an excellent test of the dynamic range of the speaker.”