The estimable reggae guitarist Ernest Ranglin held court at the Field of Heaven at 6 o’clock, just about the time it started drizzling for the first time this weekend. Thought the crowd was good, it obviously wasn’t as huge at the one waiting for Babymetal at the adjoining White Stage. So much the better for those of us who decided to stay for Ranglin. His “friends” turned out to be pretty impressive: Courtney Pine on winds, Tony Allen on drums, Ira Coleman on bass, Alex Wilson on keyboards, and, best of all, Chiekh Lo on vocals and a number of instruments.
Ranglin, of course, is one of the most respected session guitarists in the world, and while his bailiwick doesn’t necessarily inspire lots of excitement, that’s exactly what he delivered with the help of his friends. Though the crowd was sparse and the rain made people a little less relaxed than they would have been otherwise, as the hour-long set progressed people became more and more excited, and for good reason.
First of all, with Chiekh Lo as main vocalist (as well as second guitarist and percussionist) the show was guaranteed to be special, and when he launched into “Susanna,” a beat-heavy dance number that featured the dancer from Ndagga Rhythm Force carrying on by pulling Courtney Pine’s very long ponytail and riding piggyback on several members, the audience was hooked. But it was the quality of the jamming that made it special, and which actually forced an encore, something very rare at Fuji. The Field of Heaven, after all, was inaugurated as a haven for jam bands, and Ranglin & Friends justified that designation to the fullest. People couldn’t get enough.