Despite years spent in American, Monty Alexander’s speech remains full of the infectiously lilting, joyously expressive, idiomatic contours of his Kingston childhood. And it seems he is always laughing. It may be that this is also simply a matter of culture, but I don’t think so. I think the laughter is a part of who Alexander is. It’s always there, buoying his highly discursive, insightful, and firmly opinionated statements with a resolute optimism. But make no mistake, Alexander’s optimism is not the fool’s sanguinity which threatens blindness and its all too common cousin insularity. Quite the opposite. Alexander’s optimism is that of someone who recognizes suffering, and because he has been touched by it, makes the conscious choice to strive against it with the only weapon ever proven successful: Deliberate, honed, and unrelenting humanism.
The conversation began at 10:00am July 14, 2003 and took of at a breakneck pace. Alexander needs little prompting to express himself, and the pleasant sound of his speech is only matched by the compelling nature of its content. Speaking first, and at some length, about Alexander’s friendship with the late bass icon Ray Brown, we then turned our attention to Alexander’s recent projects, future plans, and a plethora of other topics.
(The Ray Brown portion of the discussion will be included in an upcoming feature honoring Ray Brown’s long and influential career.)
We spoke first about Alexander’s work as leader and composer. Franz Matzner:
Considering your versatility as a player, and the many musicians you’ve worked with, you’re clearly taking on a certain veteran role of your own. Monty Alexander:
I had no idea. (Laughing deeply)