Monty Alexander

Monty Alexander, a pianist, has enjoyed a long career that spans five decades. He has a reputation for exploring and bridging American jazz, popular music, and Jamaican music, finding in each an authentic spirit of musical expression. He has recorded and performed with many artists, including Tony Bennett, Ray Brown and Dizzy Gillespie. He also recorded with Quincy Jones, Ernest Ranglin and Bill Cosby. He was born on June 6, 1944, and was raised in Kingston, Jamaica. Although he is mostly self-taught, he learned his first piano lessons at the age of six. He was a teenager when he saw Nat “King” Cole and Louis Armstrong perform at Kingston’s Carib Theater. Alexander was influenced greatly by these artists. In the late 1950s, he formed Monty and the Cyclones and recorded sessions with the musicians that would help Jamaican music gain international recognition as The Skatalites. (Bob Marley’s first backing band). Alexander and his family arrived in the United States at around the end of 1961. He was playing in Las Vegas with Art Mooney’s orchestra less than two years later when he met Jilly Rizzo, the owner of a New York City club, and Frank Sinatra. Rizzo hired Rizzo to be his young pianist at Jilly’s club where he performed with Sinatra and other musicians. He met Milt Jackson, a vibraphonist in Modern Jazz Quartet, and was eventually hired by Rizzo. Ray Brown is a former collaborator of Charlie Parker. Alexander performed and recorded with these jazz legends many times. Alexander was welcomed to the “musical fraternity”, by jazz’s most prominent luminaries in the mid-1960s. Miles Davis, Count Basie and Duke Ellington were among the first to appreciate his playing. Alexander continues to tour the world, playing in intimate jazz clubs, concert halls, and festivals. His collaborations range across multiple genres, styles and generations. His collaborations include assisting Natalie Cole in the creation of her tribute album to her father Nat “King” Cole in 1991. The album won seven Grammy Awards. He also performed George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland under Bobby McFerrin’s direction. He also recorded the piano track for Clint Eastwood’s Bird, a film about the life and times of Charlie Parker. Monty Alexander was awarded the Commander in the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government for his outstanding service to Jamaica as a global music ambassador. Alexander was named among the five greatest Jazz pianists of all-time in Hal Leonard’s 2005 book The Fifty Greatest Jazz Piano Players of All Time. Wynton Marsalis invited Alexander to create and direct the highly acclaimed program Lords of the West Indies at Jazz at Lincoln Center, which was broadcast nationally on BETJ in 2008. Alexander returns to Jazz at Lincoln Center with a new program Harlem Kingston Express in Fall 2009. Monty Alexander, as a leader has recorded more than 60 albums. One of the most recognizable live recordings in contemporary jazz is Monty Alexander’s 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival performance with Jeff Hamilton and John Clayton. The Telarc label’s most recent albums include his trio sessions and the live concert recording Goin’ Yard. Alexander travelled to Jamaica’s Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong Studio, Kingston, Jamaica in the summer 2005 to record Concrete Jungle. This album features twelve Bob Marley songs reinterpreted by Alexander’s jazz piano-centered arrangements. Alexander’s musical perspective combines to create a unique musical experience that reflects his love for the Marley legend. The Good Life, on Chesky Records, is a collection songs that Tony Bennett, one of his favorite artists, wrote and popularized. This is a testament of his versatility. Calypso Blues is his current Chesky release. It’s a tribute to Nat Cole. Bio taken from artist’s site

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