Monty Alexander At Birdland
Acclaimed Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander will perform four nights at Birdland, 315 West 44th Street, Manhattan, from Wednesday, January 21 to Saturday, January 24, 2009. The first two nights will feature his classic jazz trio lineup (piano, bass, drums), and the second two nights will feature his "Jazz and Roots" ensemble - both a reggae and jazz rhythm section working together.
In a career spanning five decades, pianist Monty Alexander has built a reputation exploring the worlds of American jazz, popular song, and the music of his native Jamaica, finding in each a sincere spirit of musical expression. In the process, he has performed and recorded with artists from every corner of the musical universe: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Ernest Ranglin, Barbara Hendricks, Sly Dunbar, and Robbie Shakespeare, among many others.
Born on D-Day (June 6, 1944) and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, he took his first piano lessons at age six but was largely self-taught. As a teenager, he witnessed concerts by Louis Armstrong and Nat "King" Cole at Kington's Carib Theater. These artists had a profound effect on Alexander's own style. He formed Monty and the Cyclones in the late 1950s and also recorded on sessions with musicians who would later form The Skatalites.
Alexander and his family came to the United States at the end of 1961. Less than two years later, while playing in Las Vegas with Art Mooney's orchestra, he caught the eye of New York City club owner Jilly Rizzo and his friend, Frank Sinatra. Rizzo hired the young pianist to work in his club, Jilly's, where he accompanied Sinatra and others. There he met Modern Jazz Quartet vibraphonist Milt Jackson, who hired him and eventually introduced him to former Charlie Parker collaborator and legendary bassist Ray Brown. Alexander recorded and performed with the two jazz giants on many occasions.
To this day, Alexander maintains a rigorous touring schedule worldwide, from jazz clubs to concert halls and at Jazz Festivals from South Africa to Montreux (Switzerland), and Australia. His musical collaborations span multiple genres and styles. His projects have been as varied as assisting Natalie Cole in her tribute album to her father, Nat "King" Cole in 1991 (that album, Unforgettable, won seven Grammy awards), performing George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" under the direction of Bobby McFerrin at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, and recording the piano track for the film score of Clint Eastwood's Bird, a movie about the life of jazz titan Charlie Parker.
In August 2000 Monty Alexander was awarded the title of Commander in the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government for outstanding services to Jamaica in his capacity as worldwide music ambassador. Monty was listed among the top five Jazz pianists in a recently published book, The Fifty Greatest Jazz Piano Players of All Time (New York: Hal Leonard, 2005).
In 2008, Alexander conceived and directed the acclaimed program Lords of the West Indies at Jazz at Lincoln Center, broadcast nationally on BETJ. Alexander returns to Jazz at Lincoln Center in the Fall 2009 with a program Harlem Kingston Express.
To date Monty Alexander has recorded over 60 albums as a leader. His most recent albums on the Telarc label include trio sessions, such as Impressions in Blue, and live concert recordings, such as Goin' Yard. In the late summer of 2005, Alexander traveled to Bob Marley's Tuff Gong Studio in Kingston, Jamaica, and teamed up with Jamaican top session players to record Concrete Jungle, a set of twelve compositions penned by Bob Marley and reinterpreted via Alexander's jazz piano-oriented arrangements. The resulting union of musical sensibilities digs deep into the Marley legend. As a testament to his versatility, his latest release, The Good Life, on Chesky Records is a collection of songs written and popularized by one of his all time favorite artists, Tony Bennett. Alexander recently joined Bennett for a Christmas album and concerts at the Apollo Theater and the annual tree lighting at New York's Rockefeller Center.
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