Jamaican jazz great Monty Alexander, who discovered the piano at the age of four, is ranked as the fifth-greatest jazz pianist in The Fifty Greatest Jazz Piano Players of All Time (Hal Leonard Publishing). At age 77, he is still touring and entertaining fans globally.
Alexander was influenced by American music legends Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Nat ‘King’ Cole and Frank Sinatra. In fact, it was Sinatra’s pal, Jilly Rizzo, who first brought him to New York while in his late teens where he played at their New York night club, Jilly’s. There he accompanied Sinatra when he sang.
After releasing more than 70 albums, the prolific piano maestro has a lot more musical gems left in his artillery. Next year, he will release a brand new album. It is the very first time he will sing on a record and he can’t wait for the tracks to be released.
“I have made so many albums of piano jazz, Jamaican vibrations, and now this is the first time I decided to do something I always love doing, which is to sing … . I am excited about it because it is another aspect of what I do” he told The Gleaner.
Alexander has built a successful career, exploring and bridging the worlds of American jazz and the music of his native Jamaica, finding in each a sincere spirit of musical expression. He has achieved numerous milestones, including recording the piano track for the film score for Clint Eastwood’s Bird, a movie about the life of jazz titan Charlie Parker. He also assisted Natalie Cole in 1991 on her Grammy-winning Unforgettable, a tribute album to her father Nat ‘King’ Cole. He received a platinum record for his involvement in the project. The plaque proudly hangs in his home. In August 2000, the Jamaican Government awarded Alexander an Order of Distinction for outstanding services to Jamaica as a worldwide music ambassador. In 2018, The University of The West Indies bestowed him with an honorary doctorate degree.
In addition to releasing new music, Monty is eager to return to the stage in New York. After being sidelined for over a year due to the pandemic, he will take his Harlem-Kingston Express, which brings together musicians versed in both reggae and jazz, for a special live performance upstate at the Westchester Music Experience. It is scheduled for the Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown, New York, on Thanksgiving Friday, November 26.
“To get back on stage is like getting back in the saddle. It feels so natural because that’s where I live, on a bandstand, bringing music to the people,” he shared.
The Tarrytown Music Hall boasts its own decorated history. It is the oldest theatre in Westchester County that is still being used as a theatre. Several films and television commercials have been shot inside the theatre building including The Preacher’s Wife (1996), The Impostors (1998), The Secret Lives of Dentists (2003), Mona Lisa Smile (2003), Game 6 (2005), and The Good Shepherd.
Event executive Andrea Bullens noted that the burdensome lockdown in New York since March 2020 has only heightened the excitement and anticipation for quality live performers. She is confident, based on the early signals, that New Yorkers will come out in droves to enjoy the musical offering.
“Since we announced Monty, we have definitely been getting lots of positive feedback from folk enquiring about the event. In fact, I have been getting calls from as far as Brooklyn and New Jersey. Folk feel safer now that there is a vaccine. This venue is a vaccine-only theatre, plus everyone will have to wear a mask to protect each other. People are tired of being locked up, tired of Zooming,” she said.