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Monty Alexander: Uplift2 Higher

By the time Monty Alexander brings “When the Saints Go Marching In” to a chord-crashing close, it’s clear he won’t have to audition twice to be “in that number.” Other keyboard candidates may want to rethink things.

Like Uplift, its chart-topping predecessor, Uplift2 is predominantly devoted to mood-elevating arrangements, inspired, in this instance, by several pop and jazz standards and a spiritual folk anthem. All are trio performances, derived from a series of live recordings made around the globe, featuring rotating lineups: bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton; bassist Hassan Shakur and drummer Frits Landesbergen. Clayton and Hamilton, Alexander’s longtime collaborators, leave the strongest impression, but the pairing of Shakur and Landesbergen is consistently enjoyable and certainly a big part of why the pianist’s take on Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas” is so rhythmically tight and engaging.

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