Arriving in the company of a trio from his most recent recording, Impressions in Blue, Monty Alexander was introduced by John Sutton as the only artist invited to perform twice as part of Azusa Pacific University’s Artist Concert Series. It is not difficult to understand why APU decided to bring Alexander back again. Aside from having such prestigious credits performing with Frank Sinatra, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, and Quincy Jones, Alexander’s Jamaican background allows for any listener to experience a rare fusion of reggae, jazz, and soul.
A combination of styles certainly played a prominent part in Alexander’s selection for the evening, as his drummer, Mark Taylor, and bassist, Hassan Shakur, gracefully followed Alexander’s lead into each ambitious endeavor. As if to provide a preview to the overall theme of the concert, the trio began with one of Alexander’s original compositions entitled, “Look Up.” Beginning with a flowing piano solo, the drum and bass duo slowly crept in to partake in playful interaction laced with reggae influences. Easily soloing through the funk, swing, and Latin styles embodied within the first tune, Alexander even caused laughter in the audience as he flirtatiously quoted lines from Duke Ellington.
Whether it was a melodic bass solo on “Fly Me To The Moon,” some tasteful drum breaks on Alexander’s original “Think Twice,” or Alexander’s plucking of the piano strings during “The River,” the group’s creativity seemed limitless. In addition to musical excellence, the audience also benefited from hearing a cultural history on some of the more Jamaica-inspired tunes from Alexander himself. Learning of the cultural history behind the “Banana Boat Song” prior to Alexander’s rendition of the traditional tune made for a unique educational experience.
At the close of the trio’s two hour set, the packed audience was not about to let the group leave without an encore. Obliging, as he has most certainly done hundreds of times, Alexander sat down at the piano to further entertain an audience who had not yet experienced nearly enough of the Monty Alexander Trio.
Posted: April 2, 2004