Monty Alexander

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Monty Alexander
Monty Alexander.jpg
Monty Alexander at Ronnie Scott's, London
Background information
Birth name Montgomery Bernard Alexander
Born (1944-06-06) 6 June 1944 (age 74)
Kingston, Jamaica
Genres Jazz, reggae
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Piano, melodica
Years active 1958–present
Labels Pacific Jazz, RCA, Verve, MPS
Associated acts Milt Jackson, Ray Brown
Website montyalexander.com

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.[1] 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.

Biography[edit]

Alexander was born on 6 June 1944 in Kingston, Jamaica.[2] 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 became interested in jazz piano at the age of 14, and 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.[3][4] 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,[3] 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.[4] 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.[3]

Alexander married the American jazz guitarist Emily Remler in 1981. They divorced in 1985.[5] Alexander is currently married to Italian jazz singer Caterina Zapponi.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Musgrave Medal, Institute of Jamaica, 2000[6]
  • Best Live Performance Album, Independent Music Awards, Harlem Kingston Express Live!, 2012[7]
  • 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

Discography[edit]

An asterisk (*) indicates that the year is that of release.

As leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1964 Alexander the Great Pacific Jazz Trio, with Victor Gaskin (bass), Paul Humphrey (drums)
1965 Monty Alexander
1965 Spunky Pacific Jazz
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 Perception MPS
1974 Rass! MPS With Ernest Ranglin
1974 Love & Sunshine MPS Quartet, with Ernest Ranglin (guitar), Eberhard Weber (bass), Kenny Clare (drums)
1975 Unlimited Love MPS
1976 Montreux Alexander MPS
1976 The Way It Is MPS Released 1979
1977 Live in Holland Verve Trio, with John Clayton (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums)
1977 Cobilimbo MPS
1978 Estade MPS
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), someone (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
1981 Fingering Atlas
1982 Look Up
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)
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
1985 The River Concord Jazz With John Clayton (bass), Ed Thigpen (drums)
1993 Carbbean Circle Chesky
1994 Maybeck Recital Hall Series, Vol. 40 Concord Jazz Solo piano
1995 Steamin' Concord Jazz
1995 Yard Movement Island
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 Goin' Yard Telarc
2001 Many Rivers to Cross Meldac
2001 Caribbean Duet Sound Hills with Michel Sardaby
2002 My America Telarc
2003 Li'l Darlin Absord
2004 Steaming Hot Concord
2004 Zing BMG
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 Jazz Calypso JVC
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)
2008 Solo Jeton
2009* Calypso Blues: The Songs of Nat King Cole Chesky Trio, with Lorin Cohen (bass), George Fludas (drums)
2007–10 Uplift Jazz Legacy[8] 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

Compilations[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Notes
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

As sideman[edit]

With Milt Jackson

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 others

Filmography[edit]

  • Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke, Jean-Luc Ponty – Live at Montreux (1994)
  • New Morning – The Paris Concert (2008)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 7. ISBN 0-141-00646-3. 
  2. ^ Rinzler, Paul; Kernfeld, Barry (2002). "Alexander, Monty". In Barry Kernfeld. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, vol. 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 28. ISBN 1-56159-284-6. 
  3. ^ a b c 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.
  4. ^ a b Barrow, Steve & Dalton, Peter (2004), The Rough Guide to Reggae, 3rd edn, Rough Guides, ISBN 1-84353-329-4, pp. 24, 49.
  5. ^ Nicholson, Stuart (1990), Jazz: The Modern Resurgence, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671710125, p. 89.
  6. ^ "Musgrave Awardees". Institute of Jamaica. Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  7. ^ "11th Annual Independent Music Awards Winners Announced!" Independent Music Awards, 2 May 2012. Retrieved on 4 September 2013.
  8. ^ Monty Alexander UPLIFT 2. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  9. ^ "Monty Alexander | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 December 2016. 

External links[edit]