Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Monty Alexander: My America

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

This is his America, all right, but Monty Alexander captures its essence by relying on his Jamaican roots. What emerges is a very personal paean to Alexander’s adopted country in a context he has often employed: Caribjazz. It amounts to a party that gives Alexander a dozen opportunities to pay tribute to those artists who influenced him when he was a kid in Kingston: Louis Armstrong, Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Al Green, Bill Doggett, James Brown, Marvin Gaye and, would you believe, Roy Rogers?

The very first track, “Don’t Fence Me In,” shows Alexander at his humorous best, but it also sets the pattern for the rest of the album: the familiar brilliant pianistic flashes, often on the verge of breaking out and swinging, but his reggae-saturated rhythm section keeps him in a Jamaican straitjacket. “Rockin’ in Riddim” is a Caribbean tour de force, a way-up salute to Duke’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm. James Brown’s “Sex Machine” is an infectious fusion of Latin and rock that tends to rush out of control. Alexander even manages to blend gospel and reggae in “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Adding to the party atmosphere are vocals by Freddy Cole, Kevin Mahogany and John Pizzarelli. Alexander doubles on melodica for “Mack the Knife.”

Yes, My America is a blast, but it doesn’t wear well. I miss the more durable, straightahead Alexander. You know, the full Monty.