Monty Alexander's latest trio release instructs the listener on how wide a spectrum of hues fall within the category called blue. More precisely, Alexander reveals that there are definitely a few shades that the majority of jazz albums—an almost nauseating number of which incorporate the word ‘blue’ in their album and song titles—have ignored.
You won’t find mournful midnight tones, or steel, navy, and indigo, nor the intense neon flare, or even the subtle, infinitely lamenting shades that have often made up jazz’s traditional palette. That’s just not Alexander’s style, and wouldn’t capture the spirited, almost sprightly rhythmic methods he, bassist Hassan Shakur, and drummer Mark Taylor employ. Featured instead are the more infrequently explored baby blues, aquas, sky blues, and ceruleans that seem, at least in this album, to better reflect Alexander and company’s entertaining, optimistic, and smile-inducing approach.
Jamaican born and steeped in the almost swing-like grooves of reggae, Alexander delivers music with an appealing lilt. This is often the binding element which holds together the incredible variety of fragments, quotes, and references he pulls from a huge range of sources. Many of the works on Impressions in Blue
are dedicated looks at previous jazz compositions. He begins with a clever, punching dissection of Gershwin’s “Blue Rhapsody ”; moves on to two Ellington works; then three pieces dedicated to Nat King Cole, all of which are infused with numerous stylistic nods to the influential master. As if to punctuate both the historical concept of the album, not to mention the sly humor threaded throughout, Alexander closes with the incredibly funny “I’m an Old Cowhand.” As he indicates in the liner notes, this is a double homage to the song’s first proselytizer, Bing Crosby, as well as the Ray Brown, Shelly Manne, Sonny Rollins version. Also featured on the album are three Alexander originals, and the wonderfully executed “En Aranjuev con tu Amor.”
Those who are not fans of musical collage, historical re-visitation, or musical wit and double entendre may not appreciate Alexander’s work on this album. At least not fully, because even so, there is certainly no way to deny the superb artisanship, clever inventiveness, rhythmic strength, and cohesion of this group of musicians.