Jamaican Legends Band (Ernest Ranglin, Sly & Robbie) at Jamaica 50 Festival | Live Review

Aptly titled “Jamaican Legends Band,” the star-studded Jamaica 50 festival brought together three of the most recorded musicians of all time for a night of classic reggae with a jazz twist.

Sly & Robbie first made their name by playing with just about everybody in the reggae world before going on to provide the rhythm section for a very long and diverse list of Reggae, Rock and Pop artists. Touring with and producing for the likes of Grace Jones, The Rolling Stones, Herbie Hancock, Peter Tosh and, most recently, No Doubt prove that their immense talents have been in constant demand throughout the years.

Ernest Ranglin has been around since the beginning of reggae/ska. His pioneering guitar licks have featured on a number of seminal Studio One records, he’s performed with the likes of Jimmy Cliff and he is widely regarded as the most influential guitar player in Jamaican music history.

Although Bitty Mclean and Monty Alexander are not onstage as billed, having possibly the finest drummer and bassist pairing in existence backing you is every guitarist’s dream, and it’s evident from the first song that Ranglin is enjoying every minute of it. Performing a number of cuts from Ranglin’s classic Below the Bassline album, the trio — plus keys player — has everyone in the half-seated, half-standing audience watching attentively in appreciation.

The onstage chemistry between Robbie & Ranglin is heartwarming to witness, with the later still displaying understated yet virtuosic skills that belie his 80 years. Much like kindred guitar spirit B.B. King, both have proven that age is temporary but class is permanent.

Robbie takes to the mic on occasion to sing reggae staples such as “No, No, No” and humorously beatboxes a bassline early in the set whilst his bass is being fixed, adding an unexpected yet welcome dimension to the evening.

Once Ranglin exits the stage for a well-earned rest, Sly, who lays down impeccable percussion throughout, and Robbie jam on without missing a beat until the show draws to a close.

In a laid-back environment such as this, the trio provided the ideal soundtrack and all in attendance departed in good spirits, knowing they had just witnessed a group of living legends enjoy what they do best.

[Photos: Reggaeville]