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Seven years after Monty Alexander's first Bob Marley tribute, Stir it Up (his Telarc debut), the pianist interprets Marley's music again on Concrete Jungle, performing eleven of the legendary reggae artist's compositions and one of his own. This time out, the pianist interprets Marley's songs with a feeling for the blues and folk music textures contained in the music. Reggae remains close at hand, and a clarion vocal emphasis shares the spotlight with Alexander's piano. Lyrics are brought into the forum with clarity.
Rhythms, naturally, play a large part in Alexander's interpretations. He delivers several pieces delicately as smooth, acoustic jazz ballads. But the infectious rhythms of Alexander's Jamaican homeland are what cast the widest shadow. War has timeless lyrics that could find a place in any era of world history. "No More Trouble and Crazy Baldheads both feature Delfeayo Marsalis' trombone in blues-oriented interpretations, while "Simmer Down places his instrument in a discovery that seems to arise from a trad jazz perspective. Marley's reggae rhythms suit many different moods.
Alexander's piano takes each selection for a smooth ride. The thematic backbones of "Chant Down Babylon and "Three Little Birds combine folk themes with childlike qualities. "Trench Town comes to us on a smooth jazz palette, while both "Africa Unite and "Concrete Jungle rely on a stronger reggae foundation. The vocals on several tracks give the album its best focus.
Alexander's "Selam closes the album with a brief solo piano tribute all wrapped up in blankets and tears, a heartfelt salute to a figure who left his imprint on popular music for eternity.
Track Listing: Africa Unite; Concrete Jungle; No More Trouble; War; Babylon System; Forever Lovin Jah; Crazy Baldheads; Chant Down Babylon; Simmer Down; Trench Town; Three Little Birds; Selam.
Personnel: Monty Alexander: piano, melodica, vocals; Hassan Shakur: bass; Herlin Riley: drums; Othniel Lewis: keyboard; Wendel Ferraro: lead guitar, vocals; Wayne Armond: rhythm guitar, vocals; Glenroy Browne, Courtney Panton: electric bass; Rolando Alphanso Wilson: reggae drums; Delfeayo Marsalis: trombone; Dean Fraser: saxophone; Dwight Richards: trumpet. Guests: Luciano: vocals; The Rod Dennis Mento Band: Panchango Christian: guitar, vocals; Ural Gordon: rumba box, vocals; Vincent Hines: banjo, vocals.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.