By Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer
THE LAST thing that Dr. Ernie Ranglin did to devastate the audience at Devon House on Wednesday night was to scratch his head and look slightly puzzled.
The remainder of the audience rose as one to join the enthusiastic Edna Manley College students who had so saluted the guitarist several times over, as well as the cluster at the entrance that had no choice in the first place.
The full house for the Lion's Club of St. Andrew benefit exceeded the number of chairs available.
Dr. Ranglin's head scratch capped off a series of exchanges with the other musicians on the Toots and The Maytals classic 54-46. They got more and more intense and, just when the audience was probably wondering how the legendary musician was going to top the previous delivery there came that look of puzzlement.
Ernie Ranglin was part of the line-up at last Wednesday night's Lions Club benefit-turned-session along with the regular cast of Maurice Gordon on guitar, Dale Haslam on bass, Courtney Sinclair on piano and Desi Jones on drums.
In addition, Christine Fisher did a few duets on her own and Ernie Ranglin called in another legend in his own right, saxophonist Lester Sterling of The Skatalites fame.
"We are in November and I have a tune I wrote in November called Tune in November," Maurice Gordon said. "It was the easiest name I could come up with," he continued, chuckling with the audience.
It must have been a particularly good month, with maybe an extra day flung in for good measure, as the lengthy uptempo piece was well received.
A cycle of solos was established from early Sinclair to Gordon to Haslam and then Jones.
Humming The Blues and Kickin' Back, Gordon putting his entire body into an extended solo on the former, kept building the intensity of the evening. The ensemble wrapped up with Derrick Morgan's Forward March, which is on the upcoming CD Jamaica Time, slated for release next year.
A music stand and a couple of chairs were requested for the next performer, Christine Fisher. "Please welcome to the stage Christine Fisher and company," Maurice Gordon teased as a pregnant Ms. Fisher gave him a mock glare. "He is the guy who got her in trouble. Guilty as charged," Maurice Gordon welcomed Alex Martin, who replaced Courtney Sinclair on piano.
"I don't know why dem messing wid me. I just eat too much. My husband has nothing to do with it," Christine Fisher said as she sat down.
She sang well enough for three, though at times 'bigging up' her 'little fellow' on the piano.
Things started out on an ambulatory note, as Ms. Fisher sang You Got Me Running then, when the applause subsided, performed Walking Blues. Nina Simone's My Baby Don't Care (for nothing else but me), one high, playful 'me' sparking laughter. She ended on a wonderful 'ba-ba-ba-bu-whap-shee' which got an excellent response.
Ms. Fisher moved on to her self-declared signature song, Billie Holiday's staple God Bless the Child (Who has His Own). 'Cho, how oonu so rude?' she asked as a comment loaded with innuendo met the title.
A sad Billie Holiday number, a plaintive piano the only accompaniment, led up to the closing Summertime, which brought a blast of sun and fun to Devon House.
She rose for this number and the one to be born got a few gentle sways, in addition to the healthy dose of music.
After a short break the band was back with Call Me Sometime from the Irie Mood CD, which featured a series of Desi Jones drum solos. After a brief speech and a rendition of Masquerade by president of the Lion's Club of St. Andrew, Colin Titus, it was time for the big man in the guitar business.
The cheers started before Ernie Ranglin even plugged in his instrument. There was some disappointment when he said he was going to do one number before introducing an old friend. However, when, after a piece in which the musician displayed that he would have been as successful a pickpocket as a guitarist, that friend turned out to be saxophonist Lester Sterling, they perked up.
They were not let down. From the opening number the two exchanged musical 'hellos', moving on to Broadway in a manner that would have probably made George Benson say 'Wicked!' They conferred and came with a blast of uptempo music, led off by Desi Jones, that had the dancing feet going, moving on to a steady reggae beat to end that cameo collaboration.
It was all Ernie Ranglin's time after that. He soon had the crowd yelling in appreciation of his musicianship, at one point having both hands on the neck of the guitar and somehow still making spellbinding music. By the time he go to 54-46 more than one person had got up to dance and, when he scratched his head, they all stood.