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Before & After: Monty Alexander

The Jamaican pianist listens for life

Monty Alexander

Jamaican-born pianist and bandleader Monty Alexander is an old-school road warrior who still loves to rock the house with hard swing and deep island grooves. Though he has good ears and strong opinions, Alexander avoids theoretical analysis when listening to music, concentrating instead on feelings, emotions and experiences. While setting up, we talked about his growing up with mento music and American popular song in Kingston; his love for Louis Armstrong, Lord Kitchener and New Orleans R&B; and his big break in Miami, where he was discovered by Frank Sinatra and Jilly Rizzo. In recent years, Alexander has led his well-traveled jazz trio, as well as a reggae band. His latest release is Calypso Blues: The Songs of Nat King Cole (Chesky).

1. Nat “King” Cole

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Originally Published

Larry Appelbaum

Larry Appelbaum is a recently retired Jazz Reference Specialist in the Music Division at the Library of Congress, where he discovered the tapes of the 1957 Thelonious Monk/John Coltrane concert at Carnegie Hall that were subsequently issued by Blue Note Records in 2005. He is a longtime radio host on WPFW-FM in Washington, D.C.