All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

152

Monty Alexander: Live at the Iridium

By

Sign in to view read count
Take equal parts of Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, and Gene Harris, add a jigger of Jamaican rum, steep the mix in the spirits of Louis, Nat, and the Count—and you've got a master musician, not to mention a superior piano album and an inspired live recording session that is already looking like one of the outstanding releases for 2005.

This is Monty Alexander's best recording in at least ten, if not fifteen years, an album that brings to mind his admired 1976 Montreux concert album and even recalls some of the youthful fire that characterized his exuberant, tireless playing in the early years. (We've Only Just Begun, an LP on the defunct MPS label, must rank as one of the hardest-swinging sessions on record.)

What distinguishes Alexander's playing from Tatum or Peterson is the room he leaves for the listener. A recent Down Beat review of this latest Alexander offering falls wide of the mark when writer Will Smith finds in the leader's performance "glibness" and "merely showy embellishments with little originality." As dazzling as Alexander's technique and pianisms are, he never simply overwhelms you. Every new chorus finds him coming up with an inventive approach to the challenge of improvisation. He'll suddenly give his left hand the melodic chores and delegate harmonic duties to the right; or he'll do an unaccompanied polyrhythmic chorus followed by ascending block chords leading chromatically into an exploding out chorus. And often his "out" choruses are merely setups for another round of all-out improvising, except with the intensity turned up a notch.

Listening to Alexander is a bit like watching a Hitchcock movie—you're always matching wits with a master who's daring you to guess his next move. It's rarely what you anticipate, or it's the anticipated occurring at an unexpected time. "Work Song," that overly familiar, thread-worn jazz standard, is brimful of surprises, changing keys imperceptibly and going into overdrive just when it appears the high-flying musical rhetoric of the performance is coming in for a landing. "Lil Darlin'" finds Monty capturing not just Basie's delicate touch but, through tremolo choruses, the intensity of the full ensemble. "My Mother's Eyes" recalls Sonny Stitt's recording of the tune and offers a virtual clinic on how to draw a listener into a heretofore unfamiliar song. Monty plays the melody straight and unaccompanied, then eases the rhythm section in with a graceful two-beat feel, finally hitting his stride with a walking, swinging 4/4 version. Although each chorus becomes increasingly adventurous, none relinquishes strategic points of reference to the original melody.

But it's not variety and eclecticism that distinguish a scintillating Alexander set. What's significant is that the hooks, allusions, riffs, and inexhaustible tricks up the pianist's sleeve never intrude on the momentum of the performance. This is music for the mind, the soul, and—not least—the feet.


Track Listing: 1. Work Song, The; 2. Slappin'; 3. My Mother's Eyes; 4. Happylypso / Funji Mama; 5. River, The; 6. Runnin' Away; 7. Little Darlin'; 8. Mount Zanda; 9. That's The Way It Is.

Personnel: Monty Alexander (piano); Hassan Shakur (bass instrument); Robert Thomas Jr. (drums, percussion); Mark Taylor (drums). Recording information: Iridium Jazz Club, New York, New York (05/21/2004 - 05/23/2004).

Title: Live At The Iridium | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Telarc Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Origins CD/LP/Track Review
Origins
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Bright Force CD/LP/Track Review
Bright Force
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Say It CD/LP/Track Review
Say It
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Alchemia Garden CD/LP/Track Review
Alchemia Garden
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Don't You Wish CD/LP/Track Review
Don't You Wish
by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Making Other Arrangements CD/LP/Track Review
Making Other Arrangements
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 19, 2018
Read "Aqustico vol 2" CD/LP/Track Review Aqustico vol 2
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 25, 2017
Read "Official Bootleg: Live in Chicago, June 28th, 2017" CD/LP/Track Review Official Bootleg: Live in Chicago, June 28th, 2017
by John Kelman
Published: October 12, 2017
Read "Witchy Feelin'" CD/LP/Track Review Witchy Feelin'
by Doug Collette
Published: September 4, 2017
Read "Poetry from the Future" CD/LP/Track Review Poetry from the Future
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 30, 2017
Read "I Am A Man" CD/LP/Track Review I Am A Man
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 27, 2017
Read "Autres Paysages" CD/LP/Track Review Autres Paysages
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 18, 2018