Monty Alexander is the Jamaican Gene Harris. Both play with a dual-fisted, churchy style. Where Harris is the pinnacle of blues piano, Alexander rules the Caribbean rhythms. These rhythms and flavors he infuses into every piece on his new release, My America. This is an interesting collection that ranges from covers of Cole Porter’s "Don’t Fence Me In" to James Brown’s "Sex Machine." Unlike a lot of crossover recordings of this type, My America is not a mixed bag. He plays all in an individual style he has created over the last 30 years, infused with Island good humor.
The soul outings tend to be the most provocative, Al Green’s "Love and Happiness" is infectiously funky, while Marvin Gaye’s "Sexual Healing" has a smoldering groove. James Brown’s "Sex Machine" is given a grooveyard markover as a summertime camp revival. "Hallelujah, I Love Her So" is powerfully delivered by Kevin Mahogany. Standards and Ballads standout also. Freddy Cole reprises his brother’s "Straighten Up And Fly Right" and John Pizzarelli croons his way through "Summer Wind." Vocal chores were well chosen from among the best Telarc Jazz has to offer.
Mr. Alexander has been moving away from the mainstream in jazz in the last number of years. This has largely resulted in fine readings of reggae music from his native Jamaica and collaborations with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. This disc continues that trend. Little negative can be said for Mr. Alexander’s brand and vision of jazz.