Album review

‘Montreux Alexander: The Monty Alexander Trio Live! At the Montreux Festival’

Montreux Alexander: The Monty Alexander Trio Live! At the Montreux Festival
(MPS-LP 9860. CD review by John Stevenson)

Whether in concert or a studio setting, Monty Alexander never ceases to communicate his joy and passion for jazz.

Montreux Alexander album cover

Captured live at the 1976 Montreux Festival on the shores of Lake Geneva, this recording best exemplifies Monty Alexander’s infectious joie de vivre and mastery of the eighty-eight keys.

Recently re-issued on the MPS imprint, this career-defining album features the Jamaican maestro in collaboration with the then little-known duo of bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton.

Though this particular Monty Alexander Trio has been frequently compared to Oscar Peterson’s much-storied trios (especially on the opening number, Ahmad Jamal’s Nite Mist Blues), a broad swathe of influences – notably reggae, boogie-woogie and Ellingtonian rhythmic textures – find expression on the album. The troika’s pensive and sensitively-rendered interpretation of Morris Albert’s 1974 hit pop song, Feelings, is a fine example of Monty’s catholicity of musical tastes.

Introducing the Duke’s Satin Doll with a rollicking boogie-woogie passage, à la Meade Lux Lewis, the trio strikes a buoyant chord with their enraptured audience, who clap along to the beat with unrestrained abandon.

Nat Adderley’s Work Song, weighing in at over 13 minutes, receives a coruscating reading: Clayton inventively explores the harmonic depths of the double bass, while Hamilton’s imaginative drum solo takes centre stage. Towards the end of the piece, Alexander playfully strums the strings inside the grand piano, demonstrating his love for the dynamics of the instrument.

With the Ray Charles-popularised tune, Drown in my Own Tears, Monty takes his captivated Montreux concertgoers to church with gospel-soaked sentimentality, then seamlessly segues into the Keith Jarrett-esque closer, Battle Hymn of the Republic, on which the band swings like the gallows.

Magnifique!

John Stevenson is a North London-based writer and jazz enthusiast. Website: www.keffiscribe.com

LINK: Peter Vacher’s review of a 2016 issue of this album

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