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Monty Alexander: Impressions in Blue

Every facet of Monty Alexander is presented in this, his fifth release for Telarc: his classical side, converting “Rhapsody in Blue” to a rhapsody in traditional blues, and his reverent treatment of Joaqu¡n Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, written in 1939 for guitar and orchestra. As with the Gershwin, Aranjuez eventually takes on a semijazz incarnation but never strays very far from its Spanish roots. Conversely, the “Rhapsody” gets downright funky, thanks to the support of bassist Hassan Shakur and particularly drummer Mark Taylor. In a memorable solo transition, Alexander emerges from the funk and steers his trio into a straightahead groove. Gershwin would have dug this interpretation.

Another facet reveals Alexander’s Jamaican roots as he explores three West Indian numbers. There is no doubt of the authenticity: at times during the Bahamian ditty “Eleuthra,” his keyboard touch seems to be saying, “Hey, mon!” Alexander’s Ellington cachet comes out in a prayerful “Come Sunday” and a gospel-tinged “Creole Love Call.” He celebrates Nat “King” Cole with the help of guest guitarist John Pizzarelli, often re-creating the original Nat Cole-Oscar Moore texture. “Jumpin’ at Capitol” produces the hardest-swinging moments, especially when Alexander and Pizzarelli trade fours. “Body and Soul” reveals their interpolative humor as Pizzarelli quotes from the intro to “Tea for Two” and Alexander soon follows by inserting “Humoresque.”

The trio closes the album with a tongue in cheek “I’m an Old Cowhand,” proving that with the right chops anything can swing. Yippee-i-oh!

Originally Published