Monty Alexander

Goin' Yard

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Monty Alexander Meets Sly and Robbie beat the odds. When jazz pianists try to get in a reggae groove, the result usually sounds a little bit absurd, like a socialite trying to pass for street. (The same doesn't seem to hold true for jazz guitarists -- Ernest Ranglin has been walking both sides of that particular street for decades.) But when Alexander got together with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare in 2000 for a set of jazz-wise instrumental reggae, their sounds meshed nicely. On the live Goin' Yard, the odds catch up with him. The album's title, a cutesy baseball/Rastaspeak pun, gives a hint of what's to come -- a meeting of Jamaican and American culture that swings for the fences but doesn't always connect. Interestingly, the best numbers are the reggae ones -- there's a slightly eerie arrangement of the Bob Marley classic "Could You Be Loved" and a surprisingly effective rendition of "King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown" (originally recorded as a dub mix of Jacob Miller's "Baby I Love You So," and widely considered the finest dub side ever made). But on the jazzier material, Alexander seems to soften up. "The Serpent" is slithery but soggy, while "Sight Up!" finds him alternating barrelhouse licks with decorous parlor jazz lines while a gently pumping rockers beat chugs along below. The result is somehow less than the sum of its parts, which is unfortunately true of the album as a whole. It's far from unpleasant, but not really anything special, either. Maybe if Sly and Robbie had been on the gig....

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