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.
- Dave Nathan (All Music Guide)
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I was born and raised in Jamaica, a wonderful place in which to grow up in the fifties, and it is with a sense of privilege that I proudly express my appreciation and gratitude for America-my America, a land where dreams can come true.
Jamaica's people reflected a joy of life, old time respect, and good manners towards each other. This island in the sun had several influences, primarily African and European. It was England that gave it its educational system with the British headmasters arid teachers who could cane us schoolboys (I got it a bunch of times). Cricket was and is the main sport. There was tea at 3:00 and many would attend the Anglican church services. However, it was America that attracted me.
My first and most enduring realization of the wonders of America came by way of the movies. At Kingston's Carib Theater I would regularly go to the Saturday morning matinees to see my cowboy heroes. Roy Rogers and Gene Autry stood out from the others because of the music they made; In their songs I could sense the spirit of truth, justice, and freedom, as well as the romance of the wide open spaces; I wanted to be there riding with them. I played the piano from when I was five years old picking out melodies and playing rhythms like I heard on the radio, and I would fantasize while making sounds that reminded me of the music and the effects "behind the movie screen."
My next powerful American musical influences were the gospel of jazz by the one and only Louis Armstrong as well as the great Nat "King" Cole, both of whom I saw in person at the Carib Theater. Then came the grooving and soulful blues of the genius Ray Charles, and Bill Doggit on the organ.
In 1961 my mother announced that we were going to America, and I was filled with great excitement. I was going to the land of dreams. We first came to Miami, and it was not too long before I had a job playing the piano in a club where one night Frank Sinatra and his friends came to have a few drinks. Thanks to this chance meeting I was able to come to New York with a job waiting for me at "Jilly's" on West 52nd Street. The adventure is still unfolding.
To be a musician and to live in this marvelous country is my dream come true.
As Roy Rogers, The King of The Cowboys, used to say: "Goodbye, good luck and may the good Lord take a likin' to ya."
Each of these songs/tunes gave me some wonderful sensations when I first heard them, and they still do!
I want to say thank you to these beloved artists who gave these songs and so much more to me and the world: Roy Rogers for "Don't Fence Me In," Nat King Cole for "Straighten Up and Fly Right," Frank Sinatra for "The Summer Wind," Al Green for "Love and Happiness," Duke Ellington for "Rockin' in Rhythm (Riddim')," Louis Armstrong for "Mack the Knife," Ray Charles for "Hallelujah, I Love Her So," Bill Doggit for "Honky Tonk," James Brown for "Sex Machine," and Marvin Gaye for "Sexual Healing."
"The River Rolls On" is an acknowledgement of the gift of life and "Glory Hallelujah" acknowledges the Giver Thanks to the musicians on this recording who, with the exception of our adopted brothers Derek DiCenzo and Bobby Thomas, Jr., I am proud to say are Jamaican born: Desmond Jones, Leon Duncan, Leroy Romans, Dalton Browne, and Glen Browne. Special thanks to John Pizzarelli, Kevin Mahogany and my buddy Freddy Cole, and, most of all, Miss Cat.
This project was recorded and mixed live in the studio.
- Monty Alexander