Monty Alexander Speaks
FM: You actually just touched on two things I’d like to ask a little bit more about. First, looking at Impressions in Blue as a follow up to My America , they both have a strong quality of nostalgia, nostalgia for certain elements of America’s past?
MA: Yeah man. Big time.
FM: And the second thing is, you seem to place a strong emphasis on a sense of place. For example, the three Jamaican influenced tracks on “Impressions in Blue.”
MA: Yes, certainly, you’re right. I bring in the physicality of it. That’s because the Caribbean—or the West Indies as I call it—is me. That’s where I’m from, no less than Sonny Rollins, Wynton Kelly, so many of the greats. The only difference is, I ain’t ashamed, pal. A lot of these great artists never said it...I don’t know, maybe in those times it was different. But if you look at New York, or Washington, a large portion of people of color in the big cities, in America, are now of Caribbean origin. So, now in a way it’s much easier for me. It comes with great pride. So adding these songs to the collection is just my way of saying I want to include this, offer it amidst the other great, great people. Ellington, Gershwin, you know I love all this music. I even love the cowboys—with a passion. Man, I could go into that for a week and tell you. ...But it’s not just the physicality. It’s the time also. A sort of kinder, gentler time when people were still struggling, but when they did their music it was a relief, kind of a resting place. Whereas when you hear a lot of new popular music its like something to beat this thing down into you...that life is hard, a struggle, that we have to fight.
FM: A lot of aggression.
MA: Exactly. Aggression, and ugliness. Whereas this music is ‘give me a rest’. Its like, if I take my ten dollars and go to a movie I want to have fun. I don’t want to be reminded of the ugliness. Which is why I hardly go to the movies anymore. So its not just jazz. It’s the whole culture, it’s driving this thing down, telling us how bad life is. See, now I’m talking to you with my own, I don’t know, I don’t always talk like this. But that’s the way it is. So when I get to the music, man, I want to forget all that. (Laughter)
FM: I did want to ask a bit about Shakur.
MA: I love this man. Because Hassan...J.J, as we used to call him, grew up hearing this music. He heard Ray[Brown] since he was six years old! He was this child prodigy playing the bass at six years old. And he, like Bob Cranshaw, like John Clayton, like Ray Brown, like all these wonderful bassists I’ve been honored to play with, these men have ears. You just play a chord and bam, they now what note to play. You know, I have hardly ever written a note of music on the bandstand to show these guys? You don’t have to write ‘nothin’ down. You just start playing and everyone knows what to do.
FM: Do you plan on recording with Hassan again?
MA: As long as they let me! Because ...Hassan, being a rhythm man, picks up on all those reggae lines and man, plays them with a passion. He’s got it. In fact, we just made a record that’ll be coming out next year. We’re very proud of it...We made a true rock- steady Jamaican album...
FM: Will that be on Telarc as well?
MA: Yes, it is. And I mean, man, when you put this on, you start getting’ the point right away...
FM: And I have to ask about Taylor because I have a special passion for the drums.
MA: Me too.
FM: So I always ask about the drummers.