Monty Alexander’s recent album, Concierto de Aranjuez, was recently named a finalist for a 2014 Soul Train Award for Best Traditional Jazz Performance along with Kenny Garrett, Audra McDonald, Wynton Marsalis and Gregory Porter. The Jamaica Gleaner ran an article in Wednesday’s paper on this honor and stated, “It is the first Soul Train nod for 70-year-old Alexander, who has worked with greats such as Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. In recent times, he has worked with contemporary reggae artistes such as Chronixx. . . . The Soul Train Music Awards have been held annually since 1987. It takes place November 7 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada and airs November 30 on Centric and BET.”
Monty Alexander was born in Kingston in 1944 and he was privileged enough to begin taking piano lessons at age six. He and his family left for America at the end of 1961, but not before he had already set foot on stage in Jamaica. Two years later he would be performing with the greats in the U.S., including Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Count Basie as he was hired to perform as a pianist at Jilly’s in New York City.
I went back through the Gleaner archives and found the first mention of Alexander’s performance in the Sunday Gleaner, December 10, 1961 which was a review from a jazz “jam session” upstairs at the Regal Theater, presented by the Skyline Club on the previous Monday. “There were some more top drawer moments. These came when the personnel was augmented with Carlos Malcolm, trombone; Monty Alexander, piano; Jackie Willacy, trumpet; Sonny Bradshaw trumpet; Jasper Adams, alto; Ansel Johnson, bass; Lennie Hibbert, drums; and Karl McLeod, drums. They ran through four numbers which included “Moanin,” “Walking,” and two originals by Malcolm. It was an exhilarating set that offered spirited solos by Alexander, a young pianist with a lot of up and come, Carlos Malcolm and Jackie Willacy.”
To learn a bit more about Monty Alexander, why not hear it from the man himself as fellow skamrade and author Charles Benoit interview him for the blog Reggae Steady Ska a few months ago: reggae-steady-ska.com/monty-alexander-interview/ and have a listen to some of Monty Alexander’s music as well and watch him play in this fine jazz clip: Monty Alexander. This is a favorite of mine: Monty Alexander Africa Unite and here he is with Ernest Ranglin performing the classic Abyssinians song, Satta Massagana: Monty and Ernest–Satta Massagana.