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Monty Alexander

Monty Alexander

Monty Alexander Jazz and Roots Ensemble with Dean Fraser
@ The Gaiety on Rodney Bay, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
5 May 2009

Click an image to enlarge.

Biography

Monty Alexander was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. He began piano lessons at the age of six. As a youngster he would sit in and listen to the many jazz musicians who worked in nightclubs and hotels in the area. He was fortunate to be able to witness performances from the likes of Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong.

Alexander went on to form the group Monty and the Cyclones. Between 1958-1960 the group scored many hits in the Jamaican charts. Alexander went to the United States towards the tail end of 1961, where he would be successful at landing himself a gig with Art Mooney’s orchestra in Las Vegas. Alexander would soon progress to work for New York City club owner Jilly Rizzo, as the house pianist. This position would see him accompany many performers such as Frank Sinatra. Alexander continued to impress listeners and further meetings and collaborations were born. He would go on to work with Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, and Sonny Rollins.

Alexander’s growth and collaborations have continued throughout his prolific career. In 1991 he worked with Natalie Cole on her tribute album to her father, Nat “King” Cole. The album Unforgettable won seven Grammy awards. In 1993, he performed at Carnegie Hall in a tribute to the great jazz pianist Erroll Garner.

In August 1996, Alexander performed George Gershwin's “Rhapsody in Blue” with a full symphony orchestra directed by Bobby McFerrin at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. By the end of that same year, he had recorded nearly sixty CDs under his own name, and was frequently performing at leading festivals and music venues such as the Montreux Jazz Festival.

To date he has worked with a remarkably diverse number of artists from around the globe such as Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Ernst Ranglin Frank Sinatra, Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins and many more.

Review

The review below was written for Monty Alexander’s 2005 Ronnie Scott’s performance, however, though the location has changed, most the content still applies to his 2009 St. Lucia Jazz performance. Just add the heat and passion of the Caribbean…

Monty Alexander is a warm, down to earth individual. I could sense his sincerity as he shook my hand and reassured me that “I could take as many photographs as I liked!”
If all musicians were as accommodating, I’m sure that my few grey hairs would have stayed ‘being a few’ Unfortunately I’ll soon be reaching for that hair dye!

Alexander’s’ open nature transfers naturally to the piano and is clearly evident within his own compositions, as well as jazz standards. He adds his own unmistakable fluent, colourful signature to every note. He is able to feed from the rich culture the Caribbean offers, and then translate this into his own music. Alexander’s communication through the keys is direct and authoritative, yet graceful. In fact I felt a little sorry for his piano in a sense, as I could imagine his piano crying out for a break every time he unleashed wave-after-wave of sheer mesmerising multi-textured magic.

Alexander not only uses all eighty-eight keys to great effect, he is also able to infuse many musical styles of the Caribbean and beyond. It is refreshing to be able to feel the eclectic passions and heat of the Caribbean in the heart of London, but to be able to taste it is sheer heaven. Alexander’s classical and jazzy spirit is also very much alive and kicking. From when the very fist hammer hits the strings, his playful and witty approach had us all eating from the ‘tips of his fingers’. Compositions such as “Trust” highlight his excellent use of chord progression and key changes, at one point seamlessly fusing Billy Taylor’s “I wish I knew (How it Would Feel To Be Free)” to this delightful melody. “Consider” has a delightful airy classical feel, again highlighting his unique approach to the dramatic chord structure.

Monty Alexander has many interests outside music. One of them is professional boxing (not as a contender) but as a spectator. We briefly shared memories of the boxing greats of the mid 90’s at the end of his gig. I conceded instantly, as his knowledge greatly outweighed mine on many counts!

I was travel weary, as well as a little ‘gig weary’ upon arrival at Ronnie Scott’s tonight. In my own humble opinion every doctor or therapist in touch with alternative medicines should be able to prescribe ‘Monty Alexander Trio’ for such ailments. Alexander’s music is one of the best tonics I have had to date.

Musicians:
Monty Alexander - piano, Herlin Riley - drums
Hassan Shakur - double bass

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.

Monty Alexander

Monty Alexander

Monty Alexander

Dean Fraser & Monty Alexander

dean Fraser

Dean Fraser

Wendel Fererol

Herlin Riley

Monty Alexander Jazz and Roots Ensemble with Dean Fraser


Recommended
Listening

 

Lve at the Iridium Stir it up Monty Alexander / Ray Brown / Herb Ellis, with John Frigo - Triple Scoop Monty Alexander / Ernest Ranglin - Rocksteady
Monty Alexander  / John Patitucci  & Troy  Davis - Echoes Of Jilly's Monty Alexander / Ray Brown / Herb Ellis - Straight Ahead Montreux Alexander Live! Impressions In Blue
Ballad Essentials Jamboree & Ivory And Steel Goin' Yard Monty Alexander / Grady Tate / Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen - Threesome
Yard Movement EThe River My America Steamin' Hot
Facets Caribbean Circle Steamin' The Mony Alexander Trio - Full steam ahead
The Monty Alexander 7 - Jamento Monty Alexander / John Clayton / Jeff Hamilton - Reunion in Europe At Maybeck Ernest Ranglin / Monty Alexander - Below the bassline

 

Further Recommended
Listening
&
Viewing

Click Monty Alexander's image to see him @ the Union Chapel, London 2011...
or Monty Alexander's image to see him @ Ronnie Scott's, London 2005...
or Abdullah Ibrahim's album to view his photographs and read his review...
or Joe Sample's album to view his photographs and read his review...

Monty Alexander @ the Union Chapel, London (click to go to hhis page) Monty Alexander @ Ronnie Scott's, London (click to go to his page) Abdullah Ibrahim - African Magic. (click to go to his page) Joe Sample - the pecan tree. (click to go to his page)

Go back to the St. Lucia Jazz Festival 2009 home page.

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