In a career spanning five decades, pianist Monty Alexander has built a reputation exploring the worlds of American jazz, popular song, and the music of his native Jamaica, finding in each a sincere spirit of musical expression. In the process, he has performed and recorded with artists from every corner of the musical universe: Frank Sinatra, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Ernest Ranglin, Barbara Hendricks, Sly Dunbar, and Robbie Shakespeare, among many others.
Born on D-Day (June 6, 1944) and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, he took his first piano lessons at age six but was largely self-taught. As a teenager, he witnessed concerts by Louis Armstrong and Nat “King” Cole at Kingston’s Carib Theater. These artists had a profound effect on Alexander’s own style. He formed Monty and the Cyclones in the late 60s and also recorded on sessions with musicians who would later form The Skatalites.
Alexander and his family came to the United States at the end of 1961. Less than two years later, while playing in Las Vegas with Art Mooney’s orchestra, he caught the eye of New York City club owner Jilly Rizzo and his friend, Frank Sinatra. Rizzo hired the young pianist to work in his club, Jilly’s, where he accompanied Sinatra and others. There he met Modern Jazz Quartet vibraphonist Milt Jackson, who hired him and eventually introduced him to former Charlie Parker collaborator and legendary bassist Ray Brown. Alexander subsequently recorded and performed with Jazz giants Ray Brown and Milt Jackson on many occasions.
His musical collaborations span multiple genres and styles. His projects have been as varied as assisting Natalie Cole in her tribute album to her father, Nat “King” Cole in 1991 (that album, Unforgettable, won seven Grammy awards), performing George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” under the direction of Bobby McFerrin at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, and recording the piano track for the film score of Clint Eastwood’s Bird, a movie about the life of jazz titan Charlie Parker.
In August 2000 Monty Alexander was awarded the title of Commander in the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government for outstanding services to Jamaica in his capacity as worldwide music ambassador.
Alexander maintains a rigorous touring schedule worldwide, from jazz clubs to concert halls and playing at Jazz Festivals from Montreux (Switzerland) to South Africa, Japan and Australia. To date Monty Alexander has recorded over 70 albums as a leader. His collaboration with Telarc label yielded trio sessions, such as Impressions in Blue, and live concert recordings, such as Goin’ Yard. In the late summer of 2005, Alexander traveled to Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong Studio in Kingston, Jamaica, and teamed up with Jamaican top session players to record Concrete Jungle, a set of twelve compositions penned by Bob Marley and reinterpreted via Alexander’s jazz piano-oriented arrangements. The resulting union of musical perspectives digs deep into the Marley legend and brings together the two worlds that Alexander most treasures, building the musical bridges that are the very essence of his craft. As a testament to his versatility, The Good Life, on Chesky Records is a collection of songs written and popularized by one of his all-time favorite artists and good friends, Tony Bennett. His second release on Chesky, Calypso Blues, is tribute to one of his heroes, Nat “King” Cole.
In 2008, with the invitation of Wynton Marsalis, Alexander conceived and directed the acclaimed program Lords of the West Indies at Jazz at Lincoln Center, broadcast nationally on BETJ. Alexander returned to Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2009 with a new program, Harlem Kingston Express in which he merged classic Jazz with rhythms and vibrations of his native Jamaica.
Two collections were released in 2011 that capture the excitement of Monty Alexander’s live performances around the world: Uplift, a trio album on JLP Records, and Harlem-Kingston Express on Motema Music.
Between Uplift and Harlem-Kingston Express Monty Alexander has officially dominated the US Radio Charts with three number 1 spots, all in the summer of 2011, as Harlem-Kingston Express rose to number 1 on Jazz and World Music charts concurrently. www.montyalexander.com
NEW CD: UPLIFT 2
Monty Alexander continues to thrill audiences across the globe with his never failing high energy performances. And now, following his chart-topping album UPLIFT, the new release of UPLIFT 2 will provide listeners with another great serving of Monty Alexander LIVE (to go). GET IT HERE