B. B. King's

8 May 2006

NY Jazz Report's Denise Magidson and Will Wolf visited B. B. King's on Monday 24.April to catch pianist Monty Alexander. His new CD on Telarc, featuring the music of Bob Marley, is entitled "Concrete Jungle."

Monty Alexander

Hassan Shakur
Winard Harper
Glenroy Browne
Wayne Armond
Junior Jazz
Othniel Lewis
Rolando Wilson
Dean Fraser
Carlton James

Piano, Melodica

Acoustic Bass
Electric Bass, Vocals
Guitar, Vocals
Guitar, Vocals
Vocals, Banjo

Over a long career Monty Alexander has developed his own spirited style of jazz piano, one that always manages to swing. But he has also been an explorer, never content to stay in just one place musically. On this night at B. B. King's he celebrated his Jamaican roots, and more specifically the music of Bob Marley. And with the aid of a stellar cast of mostly Jamaican musicians, he introduced the audience to his new CD, "Concrete Jungle," a tribute to the revered reggae king.

It was a delightful mixture of reggae rhythms and musical flavors, a pepperpot soup: it included elements of rock, gospel, zydeco, North African influences, and of course, jazz. Utilizing the compositions of Marley as a framework, Alexander has once again created a stir for those in the jazz world.

He opened the show on melodica, calling down the spirit of the great one from up above, with a beautiful introduction to "No Woman, No Cry."

Then he sat down at the piano, and with Hassan Shakur and Winard Harper merrily continued the incantation. Eventually, the rest of the group joined in, and the Caribbean carnival began.

And early on he and the band slammed a musical curse into Mother Nature with "The Hurricane," dedicated to "the demise of all hurricanes, we don't need no more hurricanes." This tempestuous piece, like a classical composition, travelled through a variety of movements, jet-propelled by the driving basses of Shakur and Glenroy Browne.

With its powerful lunging undulations running smack up against Alexander's hip syncopated piano lines, it was playful, even happy at times, then calm like the peace in the eye of a storm, and back again through dynamic percussive motions, destructive, settling into a final train-like flow.

Throughout the evening both Junior Jazz and Wayne Armond provided solid vocal and guitar support. This was most evident during "Concrete Jungle." The band was in high gear, a good portion of the audience was on the dance floor grooving, and the full spirit of Marley was in the air.

To add some extra spice to the menu, Alexander invited several special guests to join in the festivities.

One was saxophonist Dean Fraser. His addition helped keep the jazz in the brew, most notably on Alexander's lively treatment of "Dick Tracy."

Another was reggae vocal sensation Luciano, the "Messenger." Dressed in military greens complete with epaulets, and imbued with the energy and zeal of a full-fledged preacher, he delivered his soulful message.

And roused the audience.

Especially during "War," a real crowd pleaser.

And it was a nice touch adding Carlton James, the Jamaican folk singer and banjo player, to round out the final mix. His brand of music, known as "mento," is a predecessor to reggae. And so even before the entire ensemble joined together to end this joyful celebration of musical brotherhood with "One Love," the idea was already dancing in the heads of the crowd, and you could feel it, it was a beautiful thing: "One Love, One Heart."

"Let's get together and feel all right."


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