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Monty Alexander: Monty Meets Sly and Robbie

Jamaican pianist Monty Alexander recently won acclaim for his innovative Bob Marley tribute, Stir It Up, so it’s only fitting that his next project would further extend the threads binding soul, reggae and straightahead jazz. His new Monty Meets Sly & Robbie (Telarc CD-83494: 51:26) is a momentous occasion, as the pianist enlists reggae’s top rhythm twins, drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare, to help build the vision. The results are a worldly and wise selection of inside-out soul and jazz classics. A dark, tribal take on the Stylistics’ “People Make the World Go ‘Round” gives the song a mysterious, pathos-packed intrigue, while a rattling, busy read of Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon” adds a unique counterpoint to the sly melodic movement. One of the album’s most surprising and rewarding pieces is “Soulful Strut,” re-molded into a chugging rhythm melt of Latin, reggae and swamp tones, while Alexander’s graceful, light melody slips across. The band also offers a thoroughly funked-up read of the oft-recorded “Moanin’,” wherein the rhythm section bubbles and pops, while Alexander’s melody stays stiff fingered and straightahead for a powerful contrast. Other treats include a modern rhythmic wrap around “Sidewinder” and a fresh, gospel-reggae outlook for “Mercy Mercy,” which is downright inspirational, leading one to wonder why Monty, Sly & Robbie don’t meet more often.

Originally Published