Sunday, April 10, 2011

Monty Alexander commemorates 50 years of music with new album

S. Victor Aaron
via All About Jazz

Kingston, Jamaica's own Monty Alexander looms as large a figure in Jamaica's jazz world as Bob Marley does for its homegrown reggae. A virtuosic pianist in the Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson tradition, Alexander often melds Tatum and Peterson with the dancehall, calypso and reggae idioms from his homeland, and nobody does it better.

Regardless of the particular style of jazz he chooses, his piano playing lies at the heart of his artistry. He's truly a thrilling, joyful player with a flair for trills, block chord bombardments and amazing single note runs.

He avoids being overly showy due to the Peterson-like elegance in his playing style; he's a hard swinger and always respectful of tradition even when he branches away from it. This guy is a real legend.
Released March 8 ahead of his Birdland shows, Uplift, a collection of live recordings taken from assorted concerts between 2007 and 2010, isn't one of those tribute or stylistic exercise records he likes to make from time to time, and which are usually enjoyable excursions. Rather, it's straight up acoustic piano trio jazz containing a healthy mixture of standards and originals, which remains the best way to fully appreciate what a phenomenal player Mr. Alexander truly is.

Joining Alexander are Hassan Shakur on bass and either Herlin Riley or Frits Landesbergen on drums. These aren't household names, but they know well how to bolster the leader without competing for attention.

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