It's always good to open a concert with something familiarespecially when said opening is an extended play offering that allows the performers plenty of opportunity to stretch out. That's how Monty Alexander and his sidemen approached "The Work Song"? on Live at the Iridium.
Comprised of some of Alexander's finest compositions and a few numbers from composers he has long admired, the album was recorded in May 2004 at the New York City jazz club and showcases Alexander's skill as a musician and bandleader. The opening number, a ten-minute opus that gives all players a moment in the spotlight, is a remake of Nat Adderley's tribute to hard times in the cotton fields and on the railroads.
This is followed by the hip, swinging "Slappin',"? a down-home blues number that's liable to set fingers to popping and feet to tapping. Drummer Mark Taylor is the highlight of this delightful piece. Percussionists Taylor and Robert Thomas Jr. take point on the intro to "Happylypso/Funji Mama,"? a Caribbean-influenced track penned by Blue Mitchell. Other album highlights include Alexander's faith-inspired composition "The River,"? the progressively complex "Little Darlin',"? and the easygoing closer, "That's the Way It Is."?
Clocking in at just over an hour, Live at the Iridium has an excellent mix of straightforward play and improvisation. The variable song lengths give the listener plenty to look forward tonot to mention repeatwithout there being a sense of wondering, "Isn't this song over yet?"? Well paced, well played, and well on its way to delighting many jazz fans worldwide, Live at the Iridium is an album for both the casual and serious jazz listener.
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.
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).
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