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Fifty-five years after he moved to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica, his hometown, pianist Monty Alexander has become an American classic. He tours the world relentlessly with various projects, delighting a global audience drawn to his vibrant personality and soulful message. His spirited conception is one informed by the timeless verities: endless melody-making, effervescent grooves, sophisticated voicings, a romantic spirit, and a consistent predisposition, as Alexander accurately states, “to build up the heat and kick up a storm.” During any given performance, Alexander applies those aesthetics to repertoire spanning a broad range of jazz and Jamaican musical expression—the American songbook and the blues, gospel and bebop, calypso, and reggae.
In August 2000, the Jamaican government designated Alexander as Commander in the Order of Distinction for outstanding services to Jamaica as a worldwide music ambassador. In 2015, the great modern pianist Donald Vega released With Respect to Monty, which included his interpretations of seven Alexander compositions. Furthermore, 2016 marked the seventh edition of the namesake Monty Alexander Jazz Festival in Easton, Maryland, for which he has served as artistic director and perennial performer every Labor Day weekend since 2010.
At his best, pianist Alexander is exuberance personified, the fleetness of his technique and fluidity of his playing enhanced by the buoyancy of his approach to rhythm, much of it drawn from his Jamaican roots.
Alexander splits his work between vivacious jazz-reggae and the kind of canny trio-jazz that suggests a Sinatra lookalike is about to set a bourbon on the piano and start crooning.