Monty Alexander at Ronnie Scott's, London
|Birth name||Montgomery Bernard Alexander|
|Born||6 June 1944|
|Labels||Pacific Jazz, RCA, Verve, MPS, Motéma Music|
|Associated acts||Milt Jackson, Ray Brown|
Montgomery Bernard "Monty" Alexander (born 6 June 1944) is a Jamaican jazz pianist. His playing has a Caribbean influence and bright swinging feeling, with a strong vocabulary of bebop jazz and blues rooted melodies. He was influenced by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Oscar Peterson, and Frank Sinatra. Alexander also sings and plays the melodica. He is known for his surprising musical twists, bright rhythmic sense, and intense dramatic musical climaxes. Monty's recording career has covered many of the well known American songbook standards, jazz standards, pop hits, and Jamaican songs from his original homeland. Alexander has resided in New York City for many years and performs frequently throughout the world at jazz festivals and clubs.
Alexander was born on 6 June 1944 in Kingston, Jamaica. He discovered the piano when he was four years old and seemed to have a knack for picking melodies out by ear. His mother sent him to classical music lessons at the age of six and he became interested in jazz piano at the age of 14. He began playing in clubs, and on recording sessions by Clue J & His Blues Blasters, subbing for Aubrey Adams, whom he describes as his hero, when he was unable to play. Two years later, he directed a dance orchestra (Monty and the Cyclones) and played in the local clubs covering much of the 1960s early rock and pop dance hits. Performances at the Carib Theater in Jamaica by Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole left a strong impression on the young pianist.
Alexander and his family moved to Miami, Florida, in 1961, where he played in various nightclubs. One night Monty was brought to the attention of Frank Sinatra and Frank's friend Jilly Rizzo. They were there to see the act in the next room, a Sinatra imitator. Somebody suggested they also check out the kid playing piano in the front room bar, "He's swinging the room pretty good" they said. Thus, Monty was invited to New York City in 1962 to become the house pianist for Jilly Rizzo's night club and restaurant simply called "Jilly's." In addition to performing with Frank Sinatra there, Alexander also met and became friends with bassist Ray Brown and vibist Milt Jackson. He also became friendly with Miles Davis, both men sharing a love of watching boxing matches.
In Los Angeles, in 1964, Alexander recorded his first album, Alexander the Great, for Pacific Jazz at the age of 20. The album was very energetic and upbeat with the climax tune being "Blues for Jilly".
Alexander recorded with Milt Jackson in 1969, with Ernest Ranglin in 1974 and in Europe the same year with Ed Thigpen. He toured regularly in Europe and recorded there, mostly with his classic trio for MPS Records. He also toured around 1976 with the steelpan player Othello Molineaux. Alexander has also played with several singers such as Ernestine Anderson, Mary Stallings and other important leaders (Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Golson, Jimmy Griffin and Frank Morgan). In his successive trios, he has played frequently with musicians associated with Oscar Peterson: Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Mads Vinding, Ed Thigpen and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen.
In the mid-1970s he formed a group consisting of John Clayton on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums, creating a stir on the jazz-scene in Europe. Their most famous collaboration is Montreux Alexander, recorded during the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 1976.
Alexander formed a reggae band in the 1990s, featuring all Jamaican musicians. He has released several reggae albums, including Yard Movement (1996), Stir It Up (1999, a collection of Bob Marley songs), Monty Meets Sly & Robbie (2000), and Goin' Yard (2001). He collaborated again with Ranglin in 2004 on the album Rocksteady.
Awards and honors
- Musgrave Medal, Institute of Jamaica, 2000
- Best Live Performance Album, Independent Music Awards, Harlem Kingston Express Live!, 2012
- Grammy-nominated 2011 CD - Harlem-Kingston Express: Live
- 2014 Soul Train Award nominated followup, Harlem Kingston Express 2: The River Rolls On, both released on Motéma Records
An asterisk (*) indicates that the year is that of release.
|1964||Alexander the Great||Pacific Jazz||Trio, with Victor Gaskin (bass), Paul Humphrey (drums)|
|1967||Zing||RCA||Some tracks trio, with Bob Cranshaw (bass), Al Foster (drums); some tracks trio with Victor Gaskin (bass), Roy McCurdy (drums)|
|1969||This Is Monty Alexander||Verve|
|1970||Taste of Freedom|
|1971||Here Comes the Sun||MPS||With Eugene Wright (bass), Duffy Jackson (drums), Montego Joe (congas)|
|1971||We've Only Just Begun||MPS||Trio, with Eugene Wright (bass), Bobby Durham (drums); in concert|
|1974||Rass!||MPS||With Ernest Ranglin|
|1974||Love & Sunshine||MPS||Quartet, with Ernest Ranglin (guitar), Eberhard Weber (bass), Kenny Clare (drums)|
|1976||The Way It Is||MPS||Released 1979|
|1977||Live in Holland||Verve||Trio, with John Clayton (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums)|
|1978||Jamento||Fantasy||with Ernest Ranglin, Andy Simpkins, Roger Bethelmy, Duffy Jackson, Vince Charles, Larry McDonald|
|1979||So What?||Black & Blue||Solo piano|
|1979||Facets||Concord||Trio, with Ray Brown (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums)|
|1979||In Tokyo||Pablo||Trio, with Andrew Simpkins (bass), Frank Gant (drums)|
|1980||Ivory and Steel||Concord||With Othello Molineaux and Leo 'Boogsie' Sharp (steel drums), Gerald Wiggins[sic] (bass), Frank Gant (drums), Robert Thomas Jr (percussion)|
|1980||Trio||Concord||Trio, with Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass)|
|1981||Monty Alexander – Ernest Ranglin||MPS|
|1982?||Overseas Special||Concord||Trio, with Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass); in concert|
|1982||Triple Treat||Concord||Trio, with Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass)|
|1983||Duke Ellington Songbook||MPS|
|1983||Reunion in Europe||Concord||Trio, with John Clayton (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums)|
|1985||Full Steam Ahead||Concord Jazz||With Ray Brown (bass), Frank Gant (drums)|
|1985||Threesome||Soul Note||Trio, with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Grady Tate (drums, vocals)|
|1985||Friday Night||Limetree||With Reggie Johnson (bass), Ed Thigpen (drums), Robert Thomas Jr (drums)|
|1985||Saturday Night||Limetree||With Reggie Johnson (bass), Ed Thigpen (drums), Robert Thomas Jr (drums)|
|1985||The River||Concord Jazz||With John Clayton (bass), Ed Thigpen (drums)|
|1987||Triple Treat II||Concord Jazz||Most tracks trio, with Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass); some tracks quartet, with John Frigo (violin) added; in concert|
|1988||Jamboree||Concord||With Othello Molineaux and Leo 'Boogsie' Sharp (steel drums), Marshall Wood and Bernard Montgomery (bass), Marvin "Smitty" Smith (drums), Robert Thomas Jr (percussion)|
|1989||Triple Treat III||Concord Jazz||Most tracks trio, with Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass); some tracks quartet, with John Frigo (violin) added; in concert|
|1994||Monty Alexander at Maybeck||Concord Jazz||Solo piano; in concert|
|1995||To Nat with Love||Mastermix|
|1996*||To the Ends of the Earth||Concord Picante|
|1997||Echoes of Jilly's||Concord|
|1998||The Concord Jazz Heritage Series||Concord|
|1999||Stir It Up – The Music of Bob Marley||Telarc|
|2000||Ballad Essentials||Concord Jazz|
|2000||Island Grooves||Concord Jazz|
|2000||Monty Meets Sly and Robbie||Telarc||With Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare|
|2001||Many Rivers to Cross||Meldac|
|2001||Caribbean Duet||Sound Hills||with Michel Sardaby|
|2004||Rocksteady||Telarc||with Ernest Ranglin (guitar)|
|2004||Live at the Iridium||Telarc||Most tracks trio, with Hassan Shakur (bass), Mark Taylor (drums); some tracks quartet, with Robert Thomas Jr (percussion) added; in concert|
|2005||Concrete Jungle: The Songs of Bob Marley||Telarc|
|2006||The Way It Is|
|2008||Impressions in Blue||Telarc||Trio, with Hassan Shakur (bass), Mark Taylor (drums)|
|2008*||The Good Life: Monty Alexander Plays the Songs of Tony Bennett||Chesky||Trio, with Lorin Cohen (bass), George Fludas (drums)|
|2009*||Calypso Blues: The Songs of Nat King Cole||Chesky||Trio, with Lorin Cohen (bass), George Fludas (drums)|
|2007–10||Uplift||Jazz Legacy||Most tracks trio, with Hassan Shakur (bass), Herlin Riley (drums); some tracks with Shakur (bass), Frits Landesbergen (drums); in concert|
|2010||Love Me Tender||Venus||Trio, with Hassan Shakur (bass), Willie Jones III (drums)|
|2011*||Harlem-Kingston Express||Motéma||In concert|
|2013*||Uplift 2||Jazz Legacy||Most tracks trio, with John Clayton (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums); some tracks trio with Hanson Shakur (bass), Frits Landesbergen (drums); in concert|
|1988–2013||Harlem-Kingston Express, Vol. 2: River Rolls On||Motéma|
|Triple Scoop||Concord Jazz||Compilation of Triple Treat, Triple Treat II and Triple Treat III|
|2003*||Straight Ahead||Concord||Compilation of Overseas Special and Trio|
With Milt Jackson
- That's the Way It Is (Impulse!, 1969)
- Just the Way It Had to Be (Impulse!, 1969)
- Soul Fusion (Pablo 1977)
- Montreux '77
- A London Bridge (Pablo, 1982)
- Memories of Thelonious Sphere Monk (Pablo, 1982)
- Mostly Duke (Pablo, 1982)
With Ray Brown
- 1979 Live at the Concord Jazz Festival
- 1980 Summerwind
- 1982 Ray Brown Vol. 3
- 2002 Ray Brown, Monty Alexander, & Russell Malone
- 2003 Walk On
With Ernest Ranglin
- Ranglypso (MPS, 1974)
- Below the Bassline (Universal, 1996)
- Rocksteady (2004)
- Order of Distinction (2007)
With Tony Bennett
- A Swingin' Christmas (Featuring The Count Basie Big Band) (Columbia, 2008)
- 1969 The Original Jam Sessions 1969, Quincy Jones and Bill Cosby
- 1971 Smackwater Jack, Quincy Jones
- 1977 Dizzy Gillespie Montreux Jam, Dizzy Gillespie
- 1979 Somewhere in My Lifetime, Phyllis Hyman
- 1980 Royal Blue, Marshal Royal
- 1980 Never Make Your Move Too Soon, Ernestine Anderson
- 1986 Go for Whatcha' Know, Jimmy Smith
- 1987 Spontaneous Combustion, Barney Kessel
- 1989 Chicken Scratch, Lee "Scratch" Perry
- 1990 Snowy Morning Blues, Howard Alden
- 1991 Unforgettable: With Love, Natalie Cole
- 1994 That's Funky, Benny Golson
- 1996 Landmarks, Clifton Anderson
- 1996 Manhattan Moods, Mary Stallings
- 1996 Verve Jazz Masters '59, Toots Thielemans
- 2000 One on One, Clark Terry
- 2000 That's Funky, Benny Golson
- 2001 Universal Lovesongs, Caterina Zapponi
- 2002 Kristian Jørgensen Meets Monty Alexander, Kristian Jørgensen
- 2003 Tribute to Charlie Parker, Frank Morgan
- 2004 With All My Heart, Harvey Mason
- 2005 In the Rhythm, Suzanne Couch
- 2006 Chuck Redd Remembers Barney Kessel: Happy All the Time, Chuck Redd
- 2010 Back in the Saddle Again, Bucky Pizzarelli
- 2010 You Are There: Duets, Hilary Kole
- 2011 Kaiso, Etienne Charles
- 2011 Man With the Hat, Grace Kelly/Phil Woods
- Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke, Jean-Luc Ponty – Live at Montreux (1994)
- New Morning – The Paris Concert (2008)
- Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 7. ISBN 0-141-00646-3.
- Rinzler, Paul; Kernfeld, Barry (2002). "Alexander, Monty". In Barry Kernfeld (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, vol. 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 28. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
- Moskowitz, David V. (2006), Caribbean Popular Music: an Encyclopedia of Reggae, Mento, Ska, Rock Steady, and Dancehall, Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-33158-8, pp. 8–9.
- Barrow, Steve & Dalton, Peter (2004), The Rough Guide to Reggae, 3rd edn, Rough Guides, ISBN 1-84353-329-4, pp. 24, 49.
- Nicholson, Stuart (1990), Jazz: The Modern Resurgence, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671710125, p. 89.
- "Musgrave Awardees". Institute of Jamaica. Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
- "11th Annual Independent Music Awards Winners Announced!" Independent Music Awards, 2 May 2012. Retrieved on 4 September 2013.
- Monty Alexander UPLIFT 2. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Monty Alexander | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Monty Alexander.|
- Official website
- Images of Monty Alexander, digitized photographs from the James Arkatov Collection at UCLA Library Special Collections.
- New England Jazz History Database Audio Interviews
- ON THE COVER: Monty Alexander. Article by Alex Henderson. NYCJR, December 2019 - Issue 212, page 8. Retrieved 3 December 2019.