Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Benny Green's Reflections on Monty Alexander: Love You Madly - Live at Bubba's

 © Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The thing about Monty's playing is that he has this kind of sparkle. It's definitely music to make you feel good. It's geared towards that. It's happy; happy and snappy. And I mean, those are corny adjectives, I know, but that's the feeling I get from Monty. I get the same feeling from listening to Wynton Kelly play. Joyful. Maybe that's a better word. His music is always very, very joyful. And I could hear Oscar Peterson's influence and also the influence of his roots, Jamaica. It's all there.”

- Kenny Barron, Jazz pianist 


By Benny Green

“In 1978 when I was fifteen, I heard Monty Alexander's album, Montreux Alexander-featuring John Clayton, Jr. and Jeff Hamilton-on the radio. Because the music was so dynamic and energetically exciting, I bought the record so that I could listen more often. At the time, I was just beginning to discover and explore the personal sounds and approaches of various Jazz pianists and I was quite struck by Monty's bright, warm sound as well as by the highly infectious emotional breadth of his music.

Monty appeared at Keystone Korner in San Francisco with the Milt Jackson quartet later that same year and I got to hear and watch him in person for the first time. This was really something to behold; Monty was so vitally alert and, from the piano, he was engaged in the emotional expression of the band as a whole. His legs looked so lean and muscular and I remember marveling at how his right foot was steadily tapping, even on the brightest tempos. Monty at the piano was like a human love machine and I remember how blown-away I felt to take in his total musicality and pianism.

Once, many years later, I was staying at the same hotel as Monty and we had breakfast together. Monty asked me almost the identical question that John Clayton would ask me a few years later: "If you could play with anyone in the world, who would that be?"

On each occasion I told my elders that if I could play with anyone, it would be Ray Brown.

"I'm very happy to hear you say that, young man. Mr. Brown is golden and all of the young folks today are interested in that kind of music."

I've told Monty numerous times about occasions when I've been alone with a woman and wanted some music to relax our breathing and change the vibe in the room. I've told him more than once that I've played his rendition of the 1970s pop ballad, "Feelings." "Did it work?" followed by a knowing smile has typically been Monty's response.

Once I was in an airport with Monty and for some reason I had the blues that day. I'd said with a tone of resignation, "Sometimes, I feel that music is the only thing I really have," to which Monty responded, "GREAT! But don't say 'this is all I have,' say, 'I HAVE this!!!!'"

When Ray Brown died, the entire Jazz community was quieted. It was like we were all in shock to accept that he'd graduated the realm of our getting to be around him as we'd been. I telephoned Monty. His Jamaican culture had not "taught" him to mourn, but rather to celebrate. Monty once again gave me a powerful attitude adjustment and after speaking with him I felt empowered and inspired by the glory of Ray's life, rather than broken-down by wallowing in sorrow.

The soul and humanity that Monty breathes into each song he plays is a wonder. His depth of expressive soul and his nature of musical storytelling place him in his own league of piano-trio royalty, right alongside his inspirational heroes, Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson and Ahmad Jamal.

I'm thrilled by the inclusion of my very favorite (although rarely performed] Monty Alexander original in this set, "Sweet Lady," which was also recorded by Oscar Peterson - the ultimate respect. This waltz carries that kind of magical rejuvenation from the heart, soul, imagination and hands of Monty Alexander that makes a spiritual transference from this beautiful man to the listener.

Monty's embrace of the infinite facets of the blues is profound. His Jamaican sunshine is transformationally healing. His name is synonymous with musical enchantment.”

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