Today is Monty Alexander’s 70th birthday. The pianist was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and while he’s an outstanding exponent of mainstream grooves, his career began with r&b bands in Kingston and his repertoire has long included blues classics by Ray Charles, Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters. Over the past twenty years, he’s enlivened the mix even more with reggae, calypso, ska, and other styles from Jamaica and the West Indies.
Here’s the pianist’s original blues, “Slippery,” played at Montreux with Milt Jackson, Clark Terry, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Ray Brown, and Jimmie Smith.
Alexander played at Jilly’s, Frank Sinatra’s favorite New York watering hole, when he arrived in the States in the ‘60’s, and Sinatra occasionally took the mic and sang a number. Monty celebrated that legacy with his Concord Jazz release, Echoes of Jilly’s. The 1996 trio session offers a baker’s dozen of Sinatra classics, including “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Call Me Irresponsible,” and “The Summer Wind.” Here he is at the studios of WNYC playing “Come Fly With Me.”
In 1985, Monty released The River, an album of gospel songs and spirituals that included Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” and “David Danced” from the Second Sacred Concert. Here he plays “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
In addition to his trio, Monty leads an r&b oriented group called the Harlem-Kingston Express, which is seen here playing Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry.”