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Monty Alexander has been having his way with his repertoire under the Telarc umbrella, and the results so far have been uniformly fine. Impressions in Blue is the Jamaican pianist’s fifth outing for the label, preceded by the highly acclaimed My America , Goin’ Yard , Monty Meets Sly and Robbie , and Stir It Up: the Music of Bob Marley . Impressions in Blue is dedicated to the late bassist Ray Brown, for whom Mr. Alexander was an almost perfect accompanist. The spirit of Brown permeates the disc with bassist Hassan Shakur keeping that right-on-Ray-Brown time.
Alexander focuses his attention on all things blue for this recording. He opens the disc with a wide open trio reading to the high points of Gershwin’s "A Rhapsody in Blue." This concert piece has usually only received a "classical" treatment until Marcus Roberts deconstructed it with some success on Portraits in Blue. Alexander makes no pretenses to perform the entire work. He has very effectively distilled it to its swinging essence. The rhythm section of Shakur and Taylor are tight as a drum (pardon the pun) here and on the remainder of the recording.
Alexander has divided the recording into several different sections. Duke Reflections ("Come Sunday," "Creole Love Call") addresses an Ellington ballad and blues. Where the Trade Wind Blows ("Accompong," "Point-A-Pitre," "Eleuthra") goes back to the islands with breezy interpretations of Caribbean classics. King Cole Reflections ("Jumping At Capitol," "It’s Only A Paper Moon," "Body And Soul") intelligently focuses on mainstream jazz. Way Out West ("I’m an Old Cowhand") nods toward Sonny Rollins and his famous treatment of the same.
Monty Alexander wears the mantle of grace as the most enduring jazz pianist since the late Gene Harris. His creativity is without bound and interpretations are always tasteful. Let us hope that Alexander continues to drive his own repertoire.