Hot on the heels of Stir It Up, his popular Bob Marley tribute album, Jamaican pianist Monty Alexander has joined forces with reggae's most famous rhythm section, Sly Dunbar (drums) and Robbie Shakespeare (bass).
While Stir It Up offered jazz versions of reggae songs, this follow-up studio release delivers reggae versions of familiar jazz numbers with a couple of soul covers thrown in. The music is radio friendly, but the beats are mechanical. And unfortunately, Alexander displays little of the improvisational artistry found on his superb straight-ahead albums or his calypso-jazz recordings Ivory and Steel, Caribbean Circle or his reggae-jazz work on Ernest Ranglin's Below the Bass line.
This collaboration does yield a few nice moments, however. "Soulful Strut" is given an irresistible island groove and "Mercy Mercy" adapts well to the reggae interpretation. "Moanin'" is likably funky, and Alexander does get jazzy on "In Crowd." But the latter is hampered by machine-generated beats that sound like explosions in a video game.
Unfortunately, my complaints about this album hold true for most contemporary reggae. Since the dub style became dominant in the '80s, technology and production have overwhelmed the vast majority of recent reggae recordings, rendering many of them soulless.
To be fair, Sly and Robbie are masters of the dub style, and they're better than most at making technology sound earthy. Consequently, this CD is a nice piece of ear candy, much like an all-instrumental album by UB40. No doubt it will sell a lot of copies. But it's the least challenging album I've heard from Monty Alexander, so I advise jazz purists to steer clear.
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.