Monty Alexander

Uplift, Vol. 2: The Great Trio

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While critics and listeners enthusiastically focused on Monty Alexander's excellent reggae-fied Harlem-Kingston Express Live in 2011 (which was nominated for a Grammy), he was riding the global radio charts simultaneously with Uplift, a second album cut with his acoustic jazz trio. This follow-up date features the great pianist and a number of his now standard numbers with two different trios. The primary one includes bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton, who help deliver stellar versions of jazz nuggets such as "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," "When the Saints Go Marching In," and "You Are My Sunshine," as well as fine readings of Duke Ellington's "I Love You Madly," and a pair of excellent Alexander originals including the classic "Montevideo." The second trio features bassist Hassan Shakur and all-star Dutch drummer/vibist Frits Landesbergen on three tracks, including Sonny Rollins' calypso-tinged swinger "St. Thomas," a popping read of Ahmad Jamal's "Night Mist Blues," and a nice long take on Johnny Mandel's immortal "Close Enough for Love." The closer with the first trio is a growling, rumbling, fleet and funky take on Muddy Waters' "I Got My Mojo Workin'." The sound is impeccably warm and balanced. For anyone who purchased the first volume -- or Alexander fans in general -- this is not only a worthy counterpart, but an excellent addition to the pianist's catalog.

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