There are few working musicians who can safely round their age up to 90. And fewer still who continue to make and explore the music they helped create, generations ago. Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin and trumpeter Edward ‘Tan Tan” Thornton, each 86, fit both bills. And, here, they add a brand new song to their respective discographies.
Credited to Ernest Ranglin & The Alpharians Featuring Edward ‘Tan Tan’ Thornton, “Just What It Is” is the debut release by Pop Up Music Jamaica, and a throwback to the jazz-ska transition in the 1950s and 1960s that put Jamaica on course to transcend world music.
From his role in Jamaica’s first smash international hit, Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop,” to his eclectic contributions to Jamaican jazz and reggae, Ernest Ranglin is the elder statesman of Jamaican music. Challenging him for the position might be 86-year old Edward ‘Tan Tan’ Thornton, a 1949 graduate of the Alpha Boys School. Thornton’s training at Alpha launched an amazingly varied work experience, from performing with Ranglin in Eric Deans Orchestra as a teenager to a Beatles recording session as a young man and now with rockabilly punk meets ska-soul outfit Kitty, Daisy & Lewis.
Ranglin and Thornton are joined on “Just What It Is” by more alumni of Alpha Boys School, a famed vocational school for at risk youth in Kingston. Leading the rhythm section is Alpha ‘past boy’ Winston ‘Sparrow’ Martin, (ABS ‘49-’59, drummer, winner of Jamaica’s Musgrave Medal and the longest tenured music instructor at Alpha). Another Alpha past boy, keyboardist, Ervin ‘Alla’ Lloyd (ABS ‘61-’68, originally of the Chalice Band) and their musical brother Owen Rennalls complete the quartet accompanying Mr Ranglin. All proceeds from the track will benefit music education at Alpha Institute, as the former Alpha Boys School is now known.
Watch Mr Ranglin And The Alpharians work on the song “Just What It Is” in the studio here, and get the track on iTunes here. Listen to more music from past students of Alpha Boys on our Alpha Boys School playlist for Apple Music.