“His music is always very, very joyful,” Kenny Barron says about fellow piano master Monty Alexander in the notes accompanying Love You Madly, documenting a previously unreleased 1982 performance at the old Bubba’s nightclub in Fort Lauderdale. Available as a richly annotated double-vinyl or two-CD package, the music was captured by late Criteria Studios head Mack Emerman’s mobile unit and recently unearthed from Alexander’s personal stash of live recordings. Indeed, the Jamaican-born jazzer’s playing is infectiously exuberant as he variously swings, grooves, and simply romps through these 13 tracks, leading a quartet with bassist Paul Berner, drummer Duffy Jackson, and percussionist Robert Thomas Jr.
The set, from a hot August night of invigorating music, opens with a bracing take on the pretty if schmaltzy “Arthur’s Theme,” coaxed from a simmer to a boil with the help of a sudden double-time feel; Alexander’s dizzying, sometimes syncopated runs; and Thomas’ chattering congas. Others selections are breezy and laid-back, like the melodic Ellington-penned title track, “Consider,” “Sweet Lady,” and “Body and Soul,” the last three of which open with unaccompanied piano segments.
As per his usual approach, Alexander mixes things up stylistically, reflecting the music of his Kingston upbringing on “Reggae Later,” a reggae-to-swing tune that opens up for Berner’s chewy double-bass maneuvers and solo space for Thomas and Jackson; downshifting to a slow burn in “Blues for Edith”; throwing in some modulations and quick stops for calypso gem “Fungii Mama”; and deploying Brazilian rhythms on “Samba de Orfeu” (with the pianist referencing “The Peanut Vendor”) and elsewhere. Technically stunning, playful, hard-swinging, and delivered with you-are-there audio clarity—what’s not to love, madly?