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Jazz to Ska Mania

Monty Alexander and Ernest Ranglin
Detail from 1961 LP All Star Top Hits on the Coxsone label
Duke Ellington snaps his fingers to Count Ossie (seated, left) and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari
Jamaica All Stars circa 1947 or 1948
Ernest Ranglin and Monty Alexander in Kingston, Jamaica, January 2004
Ernest Ranglin is seated behind saxophonist-bandleader Eric Deans, in the late '40s or early '50s
A flyer for an "Xmas Bonanza" concert
Don Drummond
Jah Jerry Haynes
Johnny "Dizzy" Moore
Late 50's all star band

You don’t drive so much as duck and weave in Kingston. Like much of the city, many streets in Jamaica’s capital need fixing, and the combination of potholes, narrow paths and seemingly random traffic patterns can make for a wild ride. The horn is your best friend.

Pianist Monty Alexander, 60, and guitarist Ernest Ranglin, 72, are sitting side by side in our van. Neither one seems particularly happy about being in Kingston today. It’s an intense place. Touring the city brings up many good memories for these two friends, but Alexander and Ranglin see the harsh economic realities that plague the cultural center of Jamaica and their thoughts turn bittersweet.

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Originally Published