Magical Night in Montreal with Monty Alexander

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Monty Alexander - Harlem-Kingston Express
Photo credit: Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

“Throughout a career spanning six decades, the New York-based artist Monty Alexander has garnered acclaim for bridging American jazz, popular song, and the music of his native Jamaica.”

Celebrating five decades of musical career is an unparalleled achievement. Only a few artists reach that stage in their lives. Pianist Monty Alexander is one of them. Now 70, Alexander started to develop his craft at a very young age. He has performed and recorded with a wide variety of artists “from every corner of the musical universe and entertainment world: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Ernest Ranglin, Barbara Hendricks, Bill Cosby, Bobby McFerrin, Sly Dunbar, and Robbie Shakespeare, among others.”

Back in 2005, Monty Alexander recorded Concrete Jungle, a heartfelt tribute to Bob Marley and his musical legacy. Teaming up with Jamaican top session players at the historic Tuff Gong Studio in Kingston, Jamaica, the pianist chose and arranged twelve compositions penned by Marley, bringing together Jazz and Reggae. The result was magnificent. A few years later he recorded Stir It Up – The Music of Bob Marley, a great follow-up to Concrete Jungle. In 2011, Harlem-Kingston Express (a concert recorded at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in New York City) came out on Motéma Records. The saga continued and in 2013, a studio recording entitled Harlem-Kingston Express Vol. 2: The River Rolls On was released (again on Motéma). Is with this project that Mr. Alexander has been touring US and Europe, supporting his new album. The Harlem-Kingston Express made a stop in Montreal, during the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. The concert, part of the “Jazz dans la nuit” series took place at a state of the art venue: Gesù – Centre de créativité, located in the basement of a baroque church, L’Eglise de Gesù. The 400 seats amphitheatre, which fulfills an important role in Montreal’s cultural life, was perfect for the occasion. It’s a very intimate venue with superb lighting, sound and acoustics. Monty Alexander and his Harlem-Kingston Express band delighted the audience for 90 minutes of non-stopping Musical feast.

The Harlem-Kingston Express band featured two drummers and two bassists, electric guitar and Piano. Obed Calvaire (drums) and Hassan Shakur (acoustic bass) on the jazz side, and Karl Wright (drums), Andy Bassford (electric guitar) and Joshua Thompson (electric bass) on the reggae side. Seamlessly switching between both worlds was Monty Alexander on piano and melodica. The show was highly entertaining, with Mr. Alexander making use of his charm and captivating music to capture the audience. His energy was highly contagious. The concert was recorded for posterity.