Monty Alexander

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.

Monty Alexander
Alexander performing at Ronnie Scott's, London in 2006
Alexander performing at Ronnie Scott's, London in 2006
Background information
Birth nameMontgomery Bernard Alexander
Born (1944-06-06) 6 June 1944 (age 77)
Kingston, Jamaica
GenresJazz, reggae
Occupation(s)Musician
InstrumentsPiano, melodica
Years active1958–present
LabelsPacific Jazz, RCA, Verve, MPS, Motéma Music
Associated actsMilt Jackson, Ray Brown
Websitemontyalexander.com

BiographyEdit

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 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.[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.

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.

A year later in 1977 Alexander recorded again with Milt Jackson on the LP called Soul Fusion. Jackson used Alexander's trio (with bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton, future big-band co-leaders) for the Pablo recorded LP which was later issued on CD through Original Jazz Classics. Much of the material is obscure (including Jackson's three originals), with Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" being the only jazz standard on the album.

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.

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 honorsEdit

  • Musgrave Medal, Institute of Jamaica, 2000[6]
  • Best Live Performance Album, Independent Music Awards, Harlem-Kingston Express, 2012[7]
  • Grammy-nominated 2011 CD, Harlem-Kingston Express
  • 2014 Soul Train Award-nominated followup, Harlem-Kingston Express, Vol. 2: The River Rolls On, both released on Motéma Records

DiscographyEdit

As leaderEdit

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1964 Alexander the Great Pacific Jazz Trio, with Victor Gaskin (bass), Paul Humphrey (drums)
1965 Spunky Pacific Jazz Most tracks trio, with Victor Gaskin (bass), Paul Humphrey (drums); some tracks quartet, with Gene Bertoncini (guitar), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Bruno Carr (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 With orchestra arranged and conducted by Johnny Pate
1970 Taste of Freedom MGM With orchestra arranged and conducted by Johnny Pate
1971 Here Comes the Sun MPS Quartet, 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
1973 Perception! MPS Trio, with Eugene Wright (bass), Bobby Durham (drums)
1974 Rass! MPS Septet, with Ernest Ranglin (lead guitar), Clarence Wears (guitar), Clifton "Jackie" Jackson (electric bass), Sparrow Martin (drums), Noel Seale (congas), Denzil "Pops" Laing (percussion)
1974 Love and Sunshine MPS Quartet, with Ernest Ranglin (guitar), Eberhard Weber (bass), Kenny Clare (drums)
1974 Unlimited Love MPS Quartet, with Ernest Ranglin (guitar), Eberhard Weber (bass), Kenny Clare (drums); in concert; also released as Monty Strikes Again
1976 Montreux Alexander MPS Trio, with John Clayton (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums); in concert
1976 The Way It Is MPS Trio, with John Clayton (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums); released 1979
1977 Live in Holland Polydor Trio, with John Clayton (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums)
1977 Cobilimbo MPS Sextet, with Vincent Taylor (steel drums), Ernest Ranklin (guitar), Andy Simpkins (bass), Frank Gant (drums), Charles Campell (congas)
1977 Estade MPS Quartet, with Ernest Ranklin (guitar), Andy Simpkins (bass), Charles Campell (congas)
1978 Live at Ronnie Scott's CBS Trio, with Steve Rodney (bass), Frank Gant (drums)
1978 Jamento Pablo Septet, with Vince Charles (steel drums), Ernest Ranglin (guitar), Andy Simpkins (bass), Roger Bethelmy (drums), Duffy Jackson (drums), Larry McDonald (percussion)
1979 In Tokyo Pablo Trio, with Andy Simpkins (bass), Frank Gant (drums)
1979 Just In Time Live At EJ's Trio, with Bob Maize (bass), Frank Gant (drums); released 1996
1979 So What? Black & Blue Solo piano
1980 Solo Jeton Solo piano
1980 Facets Concord Trio, with Ray Brown (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums)
1980 Ivory & Steel Concord Sextet, with Othello Molineaux and Leo "Boogsie" Sharp (steel drums), Gerald Wiggins [sic] (bass), Frank Gant (drums), Robert Thomas Jr. (percussion)
1980 Monty Alexander – Ernest Ranglin MPS Duo, with Ernest Ranglin
1981 Trio Concord Trio, with Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass)
1981 Fingering Atlas Trio, with Ray Brown (bass), Shelly Manne (drums)
1982 Look Up Atlas Trio, with Andy Simpkins (bass), Duffy Jackson (drums)
1982 Overseas Special Concord Trio, with Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass); in concert; released 1984
1982 Triple Treat Concord Trio, with Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass)
1983 The Duke Ellington Song Book MPS/Verve Duo, with John Clayton (bass)
1984 Reunion in Europe Concord Trio, with John Clayton (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums)
1985 Caribbean Duet Harmonic Duo, with Michel Sardaby (piano)
1985 Full Steam Ahead Concord Trio, 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 Quartet, with Reggie Johnson (bass), Ed Thigpen (drums), Robert Thomas Jr. (percussion); in concert; released 1987
1985 Saturday Night Limetree Quartet, with Reggie Johnson (bass), Ed Thigpen (drums), Robert Thomas Jr. (percussion); in concert; released 1988
1986 Li'l Darlin' TDK Trio, with John Clayton (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums); released 1993
1986 To Nat, With Love Zanda Sextet, with Harry "Sweets" Edison (trumpet), John Collins (guitar), John Clayton (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums), Robert Thomas Jr. (percussion); in concert
1987 Triple Treat II Concord Most tracks trio, with Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass); some tracks quartet, with John Frigo (violin) added; in concert
1987 Triple Treat III Concord Most tracks trio, with Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass); some tracks quartet, with John Frigo (violin) added; in concert; released 1989
1988 Jamboree Concord Picante Septet, with Othello Molineaux and Leo "Boogsie" Sharp (steel drums), Marshall Wood (bass), Bernard Montgomery (electric bass), Marvin "Smitty" Smith (drums), Robert Thomas Jr. (percussion)
1990 The River Concord Trio, with John Clayton (bass), Ed Thigpen (drums)
1991 Live at the Cully Select Jazz Festival Limetree Trio, with Lynn Seaton (bass), Duffy Jackson (drums)
1992 Caribbean Circle Chesky
1994 Monty Alexander at Maybeck Concord Solo piano; in concert
1994 Steamin' Concord Trio, with Ira Coleman (bass), Dion Parson (drums)
1995 Many Rivers To Cross Meldac With Ernest Ranglin
1995 Yard Movement Island With Ernest Ranglin
1996 To the Ends of the Earth Concord Picante Alexander's Ivory & Steel band
1996 Echoes of Jilly's Concord Trio, with John Patitucci (bass), Troy Davis (drums)
1999 Stir It Up: The Music of Bob Marley Telarc
2000 Monty Meets Sly and Robbie Telarc With Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare
2000 Goin' Yard Telarc In concert
2002 My America Telarc
2003 Impressions in Blue Telarc Trio, with Hassan Shakur (bass), Mark Taylor (drums)
2004 Rocksteady Telarc With Ernest Ranglin
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 Music of Bob Marley Telarc
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)
2007–2010 Uplift [8] Jazz Legacy Most tracks trio, with Hassan Shakur (bass), Herlin Riley (drums); some tracks trio, with Hassan Shakur (bass), Frits Landesbergen (drums); in concert
2011 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 Hassan Shakur (bass), Frits Landesbergen (drums); in concert
1988–2013 Harlem-Kingston Express, Vol. 2: The River Rolls On Motéma
2017 Road Dog MACD This is Monty Alexander's own label
2019 Wareika Hill: Rasta-Monk Vibrations MACD

CompilationsEdit

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1998 The Concord Jazz Heritage Series Concord
2000 Ballad Essentials Concord
2000 Island Grooves Concord Compilation of Jamboree + Ivory & Steel
2002 Triple Scoop Concord Compilation of Triple Treat + Triple Treat II + Triple Treat III
2003 Straight Ahead Concord Compilation of Overseas Special + Trio
2004 Steaming Hot Concord Compilation of Full Steam Ahead + Steamin'
2005 Jazz Calypso: Monty Alexander Caribbean Best JVC
2007 Alexander The Great: Monty Swings On MPS MPS /Universal 4-CD set; compilation of 'Here Comes The Sun', 'We've Only Just Begun', 'Perception!', 'Love And Sunshine', 'Unlimited Love', 'The Way It Is'

As sidemanEdit

With Ernest Ranglin

  • Ranglypso (MPS, 1974)
  • Below the Bassline (Island, 1996)
  • Rocksteady (Telarc, 2004)
  • Order of Distinction (Milk River Music, 2009)

With Milt Jackson

With Ray Brown

  • Live at the Concord Jazz Festival (Concord, 1979)
  • Summerwind (Jeton, 1981) 2LP
  • A Ray Brown 3 (Concord, 1983)
  • Ray Brown, Monty Alexander, & Russell Malone (Telarc, 2002)
  • Walk On (Telarc, 2003)

With Tony Bennett

With others

FilmographyEdit

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

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  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 (ed.). 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 linksEdit