Monty Alexander has a few gigs scheduled in Kansas, and in an interview with the local paper spoke candidly about his musical career. Here are some excerpts:
Because Monty Alexander was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, it was natural that the hypnotic sway of Jamaican folk and pop music would exert influence on the jazz piano player. Another inspiration grew from the mythology of the American West. “When I was a kid growing up and I was exposed to those simple folk melodies in Jamaica, I felt the same way when I used to go to the Western movies and see Roy Rogers and Gene Autry singing those wonderful songs about nature and the prairie and the tumbleweeds,” Alexander said. “It made my little kid’s mind wander in the beauty of the West. I could feel it.”
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Though he recalls fondly the western songs he discovered in his youth, there’s little twang in Alexander’s lively and melodic jazz. Rather, it was the honest simplicity, the straightforward communication, of the western-music crooners that’s stayed with Alexander over the years. “No matter what I know in a complex sort of way, it is my desire to resolve it with the simplest form of expression,” Alexander said.
Alexander, 65, moved to the United States with his family in 1961. He settled in New York soon after — and in the decades since has played with many giants of jazz, including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie and Ray Brown. He’ll be featured at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York this fall. As a leader Alexander has recorded 60 albums; he’s been a featured sideman on many others. His collaboration with Natalie Cole, “Unforgettable” — a salute to her dad, Nat King Cole — won seven Grammy Awards. On his recent CD “Concrete Jungle,” he recorded jazz versions of Bob Marley songs with some of Jamaica’s top session musicians. “Calypso Blues” is his own tribute to Nat King Cole. Though at home in any size ensemble — Alexander has fronted big bands and played Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with symphony orchestra — it is in the jazz trio that Alexander has found his most accomplished musical voice. “For me the piano was already the perfect orchestra,” Alexander said. “I use it rhythmically; I use it melodically, gently — like a feather falling out of the sky. I can play loud rumblings; I can put the blues on it — I can go in any direction I want. To add to the piano the support of an incredibly swinging bass player and a drummer with that rhythm — to me, that was the most complete musical offering I could make, and personal at that.”
You can find the article at http://www.kansas.com/entertainment/music/story/959560.html