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Jazz With A Jamaican Accent

Monty Alexander (left) and Ernest Ranglin are known for their fluency in both jazz and Jamaican popular music.
Monty Alexander (left) and Ernest Ranglin are known for their fluency in both jazz and Jamaican popular music.

Here we are in muggy late August — what the ancient Romans called the "dog days" of summer. For many of us, the season requires a certain soundtrack. Maybe it's bossa nova, upbeat R&B or chilled-out electronic music, but for me, the perfect summer sound has a specific origin: the island of Jamaica.

While the island nation's most famous musical invention is reggae, the pulse of all Jamaican music (including ska, dub, dancehall, mento and rocksteady) feels like summer. Each of these genres possesses infectious, upbeat tempos that inspire a relaxed feeling.

The selections here draw from these Jamaican musical inventions and meld them with the feeling of jazz. In each of these songs, one can hear the unmistakable tempo of ska, the precursor of reggae. Ska originated in the late '50s and drew heavily from both American black music (including jazz) and Caribbean calypso.

Here we have an interesting situation where music that grew out of mid-century jazz has itself been re-interpreted, creating a new jazz sound in the process. It's a sort of full-circle take on a little summer playlist.

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