Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Alexander, Monty (Bernard)

Alexander, Monty (Bernard), piano; b. Kingston, Jamaica, 6 June 1944. Monty grew up in Jamaica with his parents his parents, Uriah (d. 1967) and May (d. 1998), parents and brother, Laurence (b. 1948). After his parents saw him from age five picking out melodies he had heard in the Saturday matinees of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry films (there was no TV at home back then), he began piano lessons at the age of six. He was naturally exposed to the music of Jamaica, and enjoyed radio and musicals from the United States such as the film "High Society" with Louis Armstrong. While a teenager, he attended the concerts of Armstrong and Nat "King" Cole, two of his major influences, at the Carib Theater in Jamaica, and Fats Domino. After a performance by Eddie Heywood, another influence, he played for Heywood a solo of his that he had learned from a recording. As a teenager, he was often invited to sit in with prominent Mento and folk bands of Jamaica (this was before "ska"). Soon he formed his own dance band called "Monty and the Cyclones" whose recordings reached the Jamaican hit parade from 1958 to 1960.

His mother and brother moved to the U.S. in 1961. In 1963, Jilly Rizzo and Frank Sinatra heard him play at Le Bistro in Miami Beach, and Art Mooney heard him at the Windsor Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. Mooney hired him for a stint in Reno, Nevada that summer, after which he worked in Las Vegas with a singer at the Thunderbird Hotel, where Sinatra and Jilly, this time with pianist Frankie Randall, heard him again. This time hired him and gave him an airline ticket to start at Jilly's in New York, where he stayed into 1967. There he played with various bassists and drummers and accompanied many singers; he also played for Sinatra on a few special occasions. He made recordings in Los Angeles during this time period. At Jilly's, he met Kai Winding and Milt Jackson, and he began a long association with Jackson and Ray Brown, and eventually with Herb Ellis, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins (1987), and many others. He also accepted an invitation from Miles Davis to sit in at the Village Vanguard.

Since 1964, he has recorded prolifically, toured worldwide and played on movie soundtracks and albums with Quincy Jones. He played piano on the soundtrack of the film "Bird" (released in 1986), and he assisted Natalie Cole on her album Unforgettable, including an appearance with her on the televised Grammy awards program in 1991. In 1993, he performed at Carnegie Hall in a tribute to Errol Garner. He has performed regularly at the Montreux festival since 1976. In 1993 and 1994, he performed at Montreux with opera singer Barbara Hendricks in a program of Duke Ellington compositions. In 1974 he recorded with guitarist Ernest Ranglin, with whom he was associated since the early 1950s, and other Jamaican musicians. He has continued to record and tour with Ranglin and various Jamaican projects over the years, for example with the 1974 album "Rass," and heavily since his 1995 Montreux appearance with Jamaican musicians. In August of 1996, he was invited to the Verbier Festival in Switzerland to perform "Rhapsody in Blue" conducted by Bobby McFerrin.

He lives in New York City with his wife, Caterina Zapponi, a singer.

Recordings:
Spunky (1964-65); Alexander the Great (1965); Zing (1967);
This Is Monty Alexander (1969); Taste of Freedom (1970); Here Comes the Sun (1971); We've Only Just Begun (1971); Perception! (1973); Rass! (1974); Unlimited Love (Strikes Again) (1974); Three Originals: Love and Sunshine (1974)/Estate (1977)/Cobilimbo (1977); The Way it Is (1976); Montreux Alexander, Live! (1976); Live in Holland (1977); Soul Fusion (1977); Jamento(1978); Live at Ronnie Scott's (1978); Monty Alexander in Tokyo (1979); Facets (1979); So What? (1979); Ivory and Steel (1980); Solo (1980); Monty Alexander/Ray Brown/Herb Ellis Trio (1980); Monty Alexander & Ernest Ranglin (1980); Monty Alexander/Ray Brown/Herb Ellis, Triple Treat (1982); Overseas Special/To: You Everywhere (1982); Look Up, Atlas (1982); Michel Sardaby/M. Alexander, Caribbean Duet (1982);
Monty Alexander/John Clayton/Jeff Hamilton, Reunion in Europe (1983); The Duke Ellington Song Book (1983); Full Steam Ahead (1984); Friday Night (1985); Saturday Night (1985); The River (1985); Threesome (1985); Estate (1985);
M. Alexander/R. Brown/H. Ellis, Triple Treat II (1987); M. Alexander/R. Brown/H. Ellis, Triple Treat III (1987); Jamboree (1988); Caribbean Circle (1992); Steamin' (1995); At Maybeck, Recital Hall Series Volume Forty (1995); Yard Movement, Island Jamaica Jazz (1996); To the Ends of the Earth (1996); Echoes of Jilly's (1997); Monty Alexander Stir It Up! The Music of Bob Marley (1999); Goin' Yard (2001); My America (2002); Ray Brown Monty Alexander Russell Malone (2002); Impressions in Blue (2003)
As sideperson:
Kai Winding (1964); Milt Jackson: That's the Way It Is (1969), Just the Way It Had to Be (1969); Ernest Ranglin: Ranglypso (1974); Milt Jackson-Ray Brown: Montreux 1977 (1977); Dizzy Gillespie: Montreux 1977 (1977); Milt Jackson: Soul Fusion (1977); Ray Brown: Live at the Concord Jazz Festival (1979); Ernestine Anderson: Sunshine (1979), Never Make Your Move Too Soon (1980); Ray Brown: Summerwind (1980); Marshall Royal: Royal Blue (1980); Johnny Griffin: Meeting (1981) Shelly Manne: Fingering (1981); Ray Brown: A Ray Brown 3 (1982); Milt Jackson: Memories of Thelonious Sphere Monk (1982), A London Bridge (1982), Mostly Duke (1982); Jimmy Smith: For Watch Know (1986); Barney Kessel: Spontaneous Combustion (1987); Bird [soundtrack] (1988); Howard Alden: Snowy Morning Blues (1990); Natalie Cole: Unforgettable (1991)
Unissued recordings:
Sonny Rollins: Jazz Cruise (private tape)(1987)

Video:
Live at the Blue Note with special guest Les McCann (on montyalexander.com)
Jamaican jazz festival 2002 (BET-TV)

Bibliography:
David Spitzer: Profile. Monty Alexander, in: Down Beat, 42/9 (5.May 1975), p. 26
Max Jones: Monty the Great, in: Melody Maker, 7.Jun.1975, p. 33
Leonard Feather: Blindfold Test. Monty Alexander, in: Down Beat, 44/16(6.Oct.1977), p. 39
Anon: Monty Alexander's "Love Story" Solo, in: Down Beat Music Handbook,#23 (1978), p. 68-75 (Transcription)
Mike Hennessey: Discourse. Monty Alexander & Eddie Thompson, in: Jazz Journal, 31/1-2 (Jan/Feb.1978), p. 12-15 (BT); part 2, in: Jazz Journal, 31/9 (Sep.1978), p. 32-33
Kitty Grime: Jazz at Ronnie Scott's, London 1979 [book], p. 95-96,132, 170
Philippe Carles: Monty Alexander. Le gout du reggae, in: Jazz Magazine, #298 (Jun.1981), p. 38-39
Brian Priestley (ed.): Front Line Piano Solos 4, Woodford Green, Essex 1986 [sheet music], p. 22-25 (T: piano solo transcription of "Isn't She Lovely")
Leonard Feather: Before and After. Monty Alexander, in: Jazz Times, Oct.1989, p. 9
Neville Hadsley: Up & Coming. Monty Alexander, in: Jazz fm, #8 (1991), p. 14-15
David Zych: Fountain of Youth. Monty Alexander, in: Jazz Times, 23/1 (Feb.1993), p. 38, 97
Holden Gray: Jazz Cookery. Monty Alexander, in: Jazz fm, #27 (Nov/Dec.1994), p. 59 (recipe for Alsion Wigdor's Green Tomato Chutney)
Olivier Kociubinska: Monty Alexander. L'art du trio selon Alexandre le grand, in: Jazz Notes, #33 (May.1995), p. 31-33 (I); part 2, in: Jazz Notes, #34 (Jul.1995), p. 32
Romain Grosman: Monty Alexander, in: Jazz Magazine, #462 (Sep.1996), p. 6-7
Bill Tannebring: Monty Alexander, Turnin' a Mean Groove
http://www.jazzreview.com/articledetails.cfm?ID=2106

Contact information:
monty@montyalexander.com
management@montyalexander.com
website: http://montyalexander.com/
Tel:(917) 626-7673
Fax:(212) 996-7840
Address:
P.O. Box 354
Radio City Station
New York, NY 10101-0354
In Europe:

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