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"The MAJF has evolved over the last eight years into a very classy small town Jazz Festival and probably the best in the USA. It is classy without being pretentious or exclusive and is attracting a diversity of audiences. The caliber of the performers is world class".

Monty Alexander @ Birdland – Review by Will Friedwald


Monty Alexander @ Birdland – Review by Will Friedwald

The City View Travel Guide - January 5, 2018

Jazz pianist Monty Alexander makes a point of telling his audiences (like those on his opening night at Birdland, on Tuesday January 2) that he was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1944, and that he immigrated to the United States in 1961. For most of his career, he’s divided his career into at least two hemispheres, starting with the bebop and jazz standards that he played with such veterans as Ray Brown and Milt Jackson, at such legendary venues as the New York Playboy Club and Jilly’s (the latter at the insistence of Frank Sinatra). At the same time, he’s never neglected his carribean roots, and has created many fruitful mashups of jazz with calypso, reggae, mento, and other island musics. His two albums of the music of Bob Marley, Stir It Up (1999) and Concrete Jungle (2006) are particular triumphs, as was his 2011 Harlem – Kingston Express Live! which qualified him as virtually the only jazz pianist to be nominated for a Grammy for best Reggae album.
What makes his current band his greatest is that rather than dividing up these two halves of his musical brain, now he constantly brings them together, performing on stage with essentially two ensembles simultaneously: a jazz trio, co-starring bassist Hassan Shakur and trap drummer Obed Calvaire, who are gradually joined by a Jamaican-style rhythm section. (The latter consists of electric guitarist Andy Bassford, fender bassist and vocalist Joshua Thomas, and Karl Wright, playing a ginormous drum setup that seems like a virtual wikipedia of percussion.)
With six players on stage, and with more than 60 years of playing professionally, Mr. Alexander is obviously a very well-prepared musician and bandleader, yet what works best about his current shows reminds me of the title of Peter O’Toole’s 1992 memoir, Loitering with Intent. Mr. Alexander starts with just himself and Mr. Shakur’s bass, playing whatever happens to be on his mind, there’s still snow on the ground, so he starts with a wintery theme, “Sleigh Ride.” This being the second day of the new year, he proceeds to a song about rebirth and renewal, “Young at Heart.” From a Sinatra standard, he moves on to a fuller exposition of “I Can’t See For Lookin’,” written by the young Nat King Cole in 1943. As the purview expands, he pauses and moves on to a collage of “I Got Rhythm” with “St. Thomas,” the calypso theme that most of us are familiar with courtesy of Sonny Rollins. Moving around the globe to the South Pacific, he introduces a boppish treatment of “Happy Talk” with volcano-like effects from the island of “Bali Hai,” even while Mr. Shakur acknowledges their current setting by interpolating the famous bass riff from Joe Zawinal’s “Birdland.”
And so it goes, for about 80 blissful minutes. An academically trained musicologist could transcribe everything Mr. Alexander plays on standard notation paper, but it might make more sense to track his musical whereabouts using a musical form of Google maps. Halfway through, there’s a brilliant collage of various Jamaican style movie themes from the first James Bond epic, Dr. No (1962), and an especially lyrical reading of Johnny Mandel’s “A Time For Love” (He was probably mindful that his lovely wife was standing at the bar - even she couldn’t get a seat - and that Valentine’s Day. cards are already for sale at Hallmark shops everywhere.) He gradually builds to several Marley classics, “No Woman No Cry” and “Exodus,” the latter detouring through the Ernest Gold film score that inspired Marley himself. New York may be a concrete jungle, where the living is hard - especially when it’s only 10 degrees outside - but the regular appearances of Monty Alexander at Birdland are one of the things that make being here worthwhile.


Monty Alexander Trio brings joy to Longwood Gardens

The combination of Longwood Gardens’ beautiful gardens with America’s greatest treasure, jazz music, is truly a premier pleasure.

Saturday evening was nothing less than a stellar way to kick off an early valentine weekend celebration when Longwood welcomed the Monty Alexander Trio as part of their superb jazz series.

Walking through the gardens at Longwood prior to the show, you cannot imagine a more romantic setting walking through the gardens, holding a glass of wine and taking in the intoxicating smell of flowers in bloom in the dead of winter. On display at Longwood was the “Orchid Extravaganza,” which features over 4,500 orchids and continues until March 31.

At 8 o’clock sharp, the Monty Alexander Trio entered the grand ballroom to a soldout audience of jazz fans.

To read the full article click here.





Labor Day weekend at the 7th edition of the MONTY ALEXANDER JAZZ FESTIVAL on the beatiful Chesapeake Bay!! 

"Monty Alexander is a great showman with an acute vision of what makes a good jazz festival GREAT.
His ability to field an eclectic group of world class performers is why this festival is attracting more fans and more diverse attendees every year.
Easton continues to deliver yet another annual jewel with this Jazz Festival."

here is a link to read all about this past festival edition


Saturday, May 7: Monty Alexander - Harlem Kingston Express

to perform in Brooklyn, NY at the inaugural multi-day live music experience, Grammy Park!