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

Stawberry Hill

Stawberry Hill

Monty Alexander
Harlem Kingston Express

Radio
Live Reviews
New York @ Night
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Catching Up With
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
  • Uplift by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
The River Rolls On

The River Rolls On

Motéma Music
2015

buy
Uplift 2: Higher

Uplift 2: Higher

Jazz Legacy Productions
2013

buy
Harlem-Kingson Express: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola

Harlem-Kingson...

Motéma Music
2011

buy
Harlem-Kingston Express Live!

Harlem-Kingston...

Motéma Music
2011

buy
Uplift

Uplift

Jazz Legacy Productions
2011

buy

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Mar8Fri
Monty Alexander Trio
The Jazz Corner
Hilton Head Island, SC
$20
Mar9Sat
Monty Alexander Trio
The Jazz Corner
Hilton Head Island, SC
$20
Apr11Thu
Monty Alexander
Blues Alley
Washington, DC
Apr11Thu
Monty Alexander
Blues Alley
Washington, DC
Apr12Fri
Monty Alexander
Blues Alley
Washington, DC
Apr12Fri
Monty Alexander
Blues Alley
Washington, DC
Apr13Sat
Monty Alexander
Blues Alley
Washington, DC

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Runner in the Rain Album Reviews
Runner in the Rain
By Jack Bowers
January 22, 2019
Read Driftglass Album Reviews
Driftglass
By Chris May
January 22, 2019
Read Pure Magic Album Reviews
Pure Magic
By Mark Sullivan
January 22, 2019
Read Vera Album Reviews
Vera
By Jerome Wilson
January 22, 2019
Read Kresten Osgood Quintet Plays Jazz Album Reviews
Kresten Osgood Quintet Plays Jazz
By Dan McClenaghan
January 21, 2019
Read The Poetry of Jazz Volume Two Album Reviews
The Poetry of Jazz Volume Two
By Victor L. Schermer
January 21, 2019
Read Mesophase Album Reviews
Mesophase
By Glenn Astarita
January 21, 2019