Jazz pianist Monty Alexander swings into Blues Alley

Marie Guillard of examiner.com talks to legendary Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander as he prepares for a series of performances at the Blues Alley club in Washington DC.

It is always a fine homecoming when legendary jazz pianist Monty Alexander plays Blues Alley, as he will do Sunday evening through Thursday.

“I started playing [there] so long ago ?– in the ’70s. I was fresh and new and I [began] making friends in the area,” he said. “Time went by, and over the years I’ve come back quite a lot of times. Playing that slot between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is exactly what was going on then. So here I am again!”

In between his gigs at Blues Alley, Alexander has carved out an incredible career for himself blending the traditions of American jazz with his authentic Jamaican roots while adding a healthy dollop of African rhythms to the mix.

For more than four decades, the man who began piano lessons at 6 years old in his native Kingston, Jamaica, has performed and often recorded with such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones.

Ten years ago the Jamaican government bestowed upon Alexander the title of Commander in the Order of Distinction for outstanding services to Jamaica as a worldwide music ambassador.

These days, even as he continues to record (with so many albums under his belt, he honestly cannot remember all of them) and play piano tracks on film, Alexander maintains an active touring schedule, from intimate jazz clubs to concert halls and jazz festivals around the globe.

He will, as he says, “Come into town swinging” with a trio of respected colleagues.

Bassist Hassan Shaku, percussionist Bobby Thomas and drummer Obed Calvaire will join Monty Alexander at Blues Alley.

“This is a marvelous ensemble,” he said. “I have musicians who are masters in the classic tradition of jazz [and] I refer to the grand master, Duke Ellington. When we perform, we strive to keep that tradition alive.”

The program will be anybody’s guess. Alexander notes that the gentlemen follow his lead “on a dime.” It simply depends on the mood. They may play original compositions for half the set, followed by renditions of pieces by Hammerstein, Ellington or Coltrane, among others. Or, the order may be turned around, with original music last.

“In the jazz tradition, we are sort of spontaneous creatures and that’s the best way to go – in the moment,” Alexander said. “And if the moment says, ‘Okay, play “Three Blind Mice,” ‘ we play Three Blind Mice.”

For the original report go to http://washingtonexaminer.com/entertainment/2010/12/jazz-pianist-monty-alexander-swings-blues-alley

If you want to go:

Where: Blues Alley Jazz Supper Club, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue, NW.

When: Sunday thru Thursday of this week

Info: bluesalley.com

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