In 2000, Monty Alexander was an obvious choice for Concord Jazz's Ballad Essentials series. The Jamaican pianist had recorded at least 14 albums for Concord, and he had a reputation for being a very lyrical and expressive ballad player. This collection, which spans 1980-1996, could have easily been a two-CD set, but instead, Concord chooses to be more concise and keeps it down to a single disc. You won't hear any horn solos on this CD; more often that not, Alexander is heard as a trio pianist, and that format serves him well on such standards as "Body and Soul" and "For All We Know." Meanwhile, Alexander's talents as an unaccompanied solo pianist are evident on the hauntingly pretty "Estaté" (from Vol. 40 of Concord's Live at Maybeck Recital Hall series) and various gems from the pianist's Frank Sinatra tribute Echoes of Jilly's, including "I'm a Fool to Want You" and "Here's That Rainy Day." Most of the albums that Alexander recorded for Concord in the 1980s and 1990s are worth owning, but if you need a to-the-point summary of his ballad playing during those decades, Ballad Essentials is the logical choice.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson