Monty Alexander : Full Steam Ahead
Monty Alexander : Full Steam Ahead
Monty Alexander (piano), Ray Brown (bass), Frank Gant (drums)
recorded in 2006
Pure Audiophile Records : 2 LPs 180 gram
Brand New and Sealed Record
A1 - Freddie Freeloader
A2 - Once I Loved
A3 - Ray's Idea
A4 - Because You're Mine
B1 - I Can't Get No Satisfaction
B2 - Happy Talk
B3 - Estate
C1 - Hi-Fly
C2 - Just Friends
D1 - Straighten Up and Fly Right
D2 - High Heeled Sneakers
D3 - Renewal
Distinguished New Yorker magazine jazz critic Whitney Balliett must have had someone like Monty Alexander in mind when he wrote that the fundamental intent of jazz “is to entertain and recharge the spirit with new beauties.” Indeed, the title of the book from which the above quotation is taken, The Sound of Surprise, serves as an apt description of what Jamaican-born pianist Alexander has been producing ever since he crashed the big-time jazz scene in the late 1960s.
What sets him apart from most of his keyboard colleagues is the enormous range of his musical interests. He not only has paid his dues as a performer but, perhaps more importantly, as a listener as well. He brings the joy of celebration to his work: a celebration of his life in music and the music of his life. Delightful surprises abound in both the selection of his material and the execution of same.
The seventh album for Monty on the Concord Jazz label has bassist Ray Brown and drummer Frank Gant lending
sterling support. As is always the case with an Alexander album, the tunes reflect Monty’s broad musical interests and discriminating taste.
The kickoff selection is Miles Davis’ blues a la mode, Freddie Freeloader, highlighted by Monty’s earthy improvisations over Ray’s driving bass line. Monty gets inside the piano for a bit of string strumming to embellish the trio’s poignantly beautiful Latin treatment of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Once I Loved. Ray’s Idea is indeed a Brown conception, one brilliantly orchestrated by Gil Fuller for the Dizzy Gillespie big band of 1946, of which Ray was a precocious 18-year-old member. A landmark in big band bebop, the tune was included in the album at Monty’s suggestion. Ray, in fact, had to have his memory of his own brainstorm refreshed before the sparkling trio version heard here could be crystallized.
Next up is a gorgeous solo piano treatment by Monty of Because You’re Mine, title song of a Mario Lanza movie and one of several beautiful early 1950s ballads written by Russian-born film composer Nikolaus Brodszky (“Be My Love” and “Wonder Why” are among his other notable creations). Mick Jagger’s and Keith Richard’s I Can’t Get No Satisfaction takes on a new dimension of “soul” in the trio’s high speed version of this Rolling Stones hit, Monty offering a touch of comic relief at the conclusion of the piece. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Happy Talk, a curiously neglected gem from South Pacific, emerges fresher than ever as the Side Two opener. From here the trio segues into Estate (pronounced es-tot-ay and meaning “summer” in Italian), a touching lament written by two Italian Brunos, namely Brighetti and Martino. Monty’s piano is at its lyrical best, and Brown provides a profound “amen” coda. Randy Weston’s march-like jazz classic, Hi-Fly gets a loving treatment from the trio, and a sneakily playful introduction by Monty leads into a rousing Just Friends that climaxes a regal, full-course musical feast.
This album is going to be around as long as there are ears to appreciate the versatile genius of Monty Alexander. - Gordon Raddue