ERNEST RANGLIN, at Harbourfront Centre, June 24. Tickets: Free. Attendance: 1,000. Rating: NNNN
The weather might have been more like hurricane season in Jamaica than early summer in Canada, but Ernest Ranglin was unfazed.
As the apocalypse unfolded around him, unleashing torrential rain and a fog that wrapped the downtown skyscape in gauze, the 68-year-old guitarist strode out onto the Harbourfront Centre stage, plugged in his guitar cool as you like and started rocking.
With a three-piece band providing casual support -- only pianist Gary Wyard distinguished himself from the background with a few fiery solos -- Ranglin strummed his way through 40 years of Jamaican jazz classics.
The man gets better with age. He's plucked out seminal Studio One riddims thousands of times but still manages to find space to improvise and rework the tunes, soloing at blinding speed without ever breaking a sweat. A few cool jazz tunes were tossed in for pacing's sake, but this was all about ska and roots, and by the time he slipped into Ripe Banana, aka Jacob Miller's Baby I Love You So, aka the lick beneath the dub classic King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown, you got the impression that, without a curfew, Ranglin could have played all night.
Even when the downpour got nasty, only the utterly exposed left. The fireworks were real, and the Symphony Of Fire took a back seat.