This well-rounded set features Monty Alexander exploring his West Indian heritage by utilizing the steel drum of Othello Molineaux and performing both straightahead jazz and calypsos. The music is often quite joyous and even the more familiar material (such as "Work Song," "Stella By Starlight" and a medley of "Impressions" and "So What") sounds fresh. Whether it be the Milt Jackson blues "S.K.J." or the Crusaders' hit "Street Life," this is a very successful outing that is quite enjoyable.
During his long career, pianist Monty Alexander excelled in trio settings, and he's primarily heard in this collection of live performances at various venues with two different groups, with these recordings all coming from his personal archives. Kicking off with an inspired, upbeat "Come Fly with Me" (forever associated with vocalist Frank Sinatra), Alexander seems in a jovial mood throughout most of the CD.
Soulful, swinging, funky and decidedly straight ahead, Alexander's maturity brought a certain richness and relaxed elegance to his playing. With his trusted rhythm section, he plays standards and a couple of his originals, plus a few of Ray Brown's (his mentor and early collaborator) repertory. This is one of his strongest albums in recent years!
Pianist Monty Alexander did some of his finest recordings for the MPS label. This live trio set with bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton (reissued on CD) features Alexander playing his usual repertoire of the period with blues, standards ("Satin Doll," "Work Song" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic") and a version of "Feelings" that uplifts the song a bit (although not enough). His soulful approach to the generally familiar melodies makes them sound fresh and swinging.
While critics and listeners enthusiastically focused on Monty Alexander's excellent reggae-fied Harlem-Kingston Express Live in 2011 (which was nominated for a Grammy), he was riding the global radio charts simultaneously with Uplift, a second album cut with his acoustic jazz trio. This follow-up date features the great pianist and a number of his now standard numbers with two different trios.
Jazz purists may turn up the nose at this jazz-reggae summit meeting, but that's their loss. It's not that they wouldn't have the right to be suspicious - experiments in jazz-reggae fusion do not have a distinguished history. But the combination of Jamaican-born jazz pianist Monty Alexander and reggae godfathers Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare works beautifully here for a number of reasons: first of all, Alexander is a gifted melodist with an unerring sense of groove (not always a given with jazz players), and second of all, Sly and Robbie emancipated themselves long ago from reggae's rhythmic strictures, so there's lots of variety on this album…
The Jazz Club series is an attractive addition to the Verve catalogue. With it's modern design and popular choice of repertoire, the Jazz Club is not only opened for Jazz fans, but for everyone that loves good music.
Jamaican-born pianist Monty Alexander is a sophisticated, prolific performer with an urbane, swinging style informed by the bop tradition, as well as the reggae and Caribbean folk he grew up with. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1944, Alexander first started playing piano around age four and took classical lessons from age six. By his teens, however, he had discovered jazz and was already performing in nightclubs. Although his early career found him covering pop and rock hits of the day, it was his love of jazz-oriented artists like Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole that brought him the most inspiration.