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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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MONTY ALEXANDER

Harlem-Kingston Express

Motema 233439

 

 


1. Strawberry Hill
2. High Heel Sneakers
3. King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown
4. Eleuthera
5. Sweet Georgia Brown
6. Freddie Freeloader (Riddim)
7. The Heathen
8. Compassion
9. Running Away
10. Day-O (Banana Boat Song)
11. No Woman No Cry

Monty Alexander - Piano
Robert Thomas - Percussion
Obed Calvaire - Drums
Hassan Shakur - Acoustic bass
Karl Wright - Drums
Hoova Simpson - Electric bass
Andy Bassford - Electric guitar
Yotam Silberstein - Guitar
Robert Browne - Guitar (tracks 1, 8, 9)
Desmond Jack Jones - Drums (tracks 1, 8, 9)
Glen Browne - Electric bass (tracks 1, 8, 9)
Christopher McDonald - Keyboards (1, 8, 9)
Bernard Montgomery - Melodica (track 8)
Hassan Shakur - Acoustic bass (track 11)
Frits Landesbergen - Drums (track 11)

 

Rhythm is at the core of Monty Alexander's playing, It can be the beats he heard in Jamaica when he was growing up or the jazz rhythms which influenced much of his later playing. He still has an affection for such genres as reggae, as he showed in his 1995 album Yard Movement and as he demonstrates here in a compilation of tracks recorded at various concerts between 2006 and 2010, six of them at Dizzy's Club in New York's Lincoln Center.

This CD contains both Jamaican and American styles, which explains the album title. The opening Strawberry Hill has a strong reggae beat but it is followed by High Heel Sneakers, which combines a rock rhythm with a shuffle beat, ending on a series of unpredictable single notes. In between, Alexander improvises in jazz style.

King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown is, as the title suggests, a reggae number with a persistent bass riff and a solo from what sounds like a melodica (or an accordion?). The tempo in Monty Alexander's composition Eleuthera moves from Latin to Caribbean, but Sweet Georgia Brown is straight four-in-a-bar swing at a fast tempo which displays Monty's dexterity as a jazz pianist as well as his wit.

You wouldn't expect to hear Miles Davis's Freddie Freeloader interpreted as a reggae tune but the powerful beat drives it along unstoppably. The Heathen is the first of three Bob Marley compositions on the album, with a simple melody. It again includes what sounds like a melodica, although the melodica player is listed as only appearing on track 8. Milt Jackson's Compassion is a gentle ballad feature for the pianist extemporizing in jazz mode against a reggae pulse, a mixture that works remarkably well.

The second Bob Marley tune, Running Away has a more potent reggae feel but Monty still manages to play with jazz sensibility. Day-O (Banana Boat Song) is probably the best-known Caribbean number of all time, described as "a song I grew up with" by Alexander, who encourages the audience to join in the familiar chorus. The album ends with Bob Marley's best-known song, delivered with tenderness and virtuosity.

Fusions of jazz with World Music are everywhere now, but Monty Alexander was doing them before many other people and proving that they can work marvellously, as they do on this likeable CD.

Tony Augarde

www.augardebooks.co.uk



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