Monty Alexander

My America

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Over his long recording and performing career, Monty Alexander has displayed an ability to excel with any jazz or related genre. From swing to bop and hard bop, from reggae to mainstream jazz, you name it and Alexander has done it and done it well. On his latest and fourth album for the Telarc label, the veteran pianist takes time to show his appreciation and gratitude to his adopted home, America, through a series of songs in honor of people and images that shaped his attitude toward this country, whether it be cowboy movies he used to see as a youngster in Jamaica or the impression made upon him by a variety of American performers, including Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and others of like diversity. Nor has he forgotten his Caribbean roots with a highly rhythmic version of Al Green's "Love and Happiness." Alexander's "Mack the Knife" is given a sort of gentile honky tonk burnish, while there is a bit of music hall piano in "Battle Hymn of the Republic" before he turns this patriotic song into a rousing swinger with gospel overtones. If this album needed a subtitle, it might be "Some of My Best Friends Are Singers," picking up on the device successfully used by his once-playing partner, Ray Brown. Alexander is joined on four cuts by Freddy Cole, John Pizzarelli, Kevin Mahogany, and Cat. As good as this vocalizing is, it's the infectious, bright playing of Alexander that lifts this album beyond the realm of the ordinary. Recommended.

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