UPSTROKER: Ska wouldn't sound the same without this man's innovations.
At first, the partnership between Marin jam band Vinyl and Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin might produce the response, "Huh? What's a 79-year-old reggae legend doing with a Marin funk band?"
The two do, however, have much in common. Ranglin, born in 1932, is best known as the "father of ska," who experimented with blending jazz and reggae in his most famous album Below the Bassline. He's toured with the likes of Lee "Scratch" Perry, Jimmy Cliff and Prince Buster, making him a ubiquitous name in the music world.
Vinyl and Ranglin are teaming up to play this week's Tuesdays in the Plaza concert series in Healdsburg. "He's one of our favorite artists to listen to in the van on tour," says Jonathan Korty, Vinyl's keyboardist. "It's the perfect time to meet one of our idols."
Tony Mindel, the band's producer, agrees. "Vinyl just falls into what Ernest is so well known for: taking a lot of different styles and putting them together," he says. "Vinyl is the same way."
Chalk the one-night-only collaboration up to Mindel, who tapped Korty for a band to back Ranglin at the upcoming High Sierra Music Festival. The festival originally scheduled Ranglin to perform as an artist-at-large, roaming the festival to supplement other groups with his guitar talents. Instead, Mindel assembled an all-star band of musicians from five countries.
"He played with a world band of mine last summer, and they really hit it off," Mindel says. "So when I heard that he was coming again, a light bulb just went off in my head."
From High Sierra, Ranglin's newfound band—including Korty—will jump to In the Pocket Studios in Forestville to record an album. Ranglin and Korty will then meet up with Vinyl in Healdsburg for the concert. All in all, it's a marathon of music.
"He's coming all the way from Jamaica, so he needs a band, a confident one," Mindel says. "One that's worthy of his stature."
Vinyl were recently voted one of the top 25 bands in America in a nationwide poll on Jamband.com. They've toured for over 14 years now, and the Healdsburg plaza concert series has been one of their favorites. "We played at Healdsburg last year, and it was a sweet gig. The crowd was huge and really excited," Korty says.
Korty's hoping that the initial spark between Vinyl and Ranglin will grow into a mutually beneficial partnership. "We played with Bernie Worrell from Parliament Funkadelic, and that turned into a lifelong, mutually beneficial partnership," Korty says. "I think this show with Ernest is the start of something beautiful."
Ernest Ranglin sits in with Vinyl on Tuesday, July 5, at the Healdsburg Plaza. Plaza St. and Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. 6pm. Free. 707.431.3300.