To mention the words Jamaica and jazz in the same breath is to conjure up the music of Monty Alexander. On Goin' Yard, his third Telarc release, the pianist shares the stage with a six-piece band of Jamaica's finest musicians. This live album centers on Alexander's own compositions, but also features three Bob Marley tunes ("The Heathen," "Could You Be Loved" and "Exodus") and "Banana Boat," a Jamaican traditional.
Recorded live at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in Pittsburgh, PA, on October 5 and 6, 2000, Goin' Yard refers to Alexander's Yard Movement band of a decade ago. The term "yard" is Jamaican slang for home, pointing to the source of the music. His band includes bassist Glen Browne, guitarists Robert Browne and Wayne Armond, drummer Desmond Jones, keyboardist Dwight Dawes and hand drummer Robert Thomas.
In a career that spans thirty five years, Monty Alexander has jammed during the golden age of Jamaican ska, toured with Dizzy Gillespie and Milt Jackson, and managed to record over fifty albums. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1944 to jazz-loving parents, Alexander began piano lessons when he was six. He was playing professionally with his own band, "Monty and the Cyclones," while still a teenager.
Alexander first performed in the United States when he appeared in Las Vegas with Art Mooney's orchestra. He relocated to Miami in 1962, playing Le Bistro. One night, Frank Sinatra and his friend, Jilly Rizzo, walked in. Rizzo immediately offered the 18-year old a gig at his legendary New York club, Jilly's. Alexander then recorded a series of accomplished trio recordings with guitarist Herb Ellis. Soon he was accompanying a variety of top singers, later forming a friendship with vibraphonist Milt Jackson and eventually gigging with bassist Ray Brown.
On his 1999 Telarc debut, Stir It Up—The Music of Bob Marley (CD-83469), Alexander interpreted such well-known Marley compositions as "I Shot The Sheriff," "No Woman No Cry," "Is This Love?" and "Jammin'" with both American and Jamaican musicians. His 2000 release, Monty Meets Sly and Robbie (CD-83494), featured Jamaican rhythm kings, bassist Robbie Shakespeare and drummer Sly Dunbar.
Whether it's bold interpretations of Bob Marley's songbook or soulful excursions with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, Monty Alexander has always been adept at exploring the roots of reggae and jazz. He continues to tour regularly with his own bands, swinging hard in his own inimitable style.