Monty called to Order
Monty Alexander

IN a 2014 interview with the reggae-steady-ska.com website, Monty Alexander recalled how the music scene in Jamaica during the early 1960s influenced his career and appreciation for diverse sounds.

The pianist also spoke glowingly about the musicians he saw back then.

"Musicians that would play anything on the piano, the guitar, trombone — any kind of music — including guys who played in the hotels. Among them there was an amazing piano player named Aubrey Adams, and he became, not a mentor, but someone I would go and watch and see him play in the hotels when I was 10 or 12 years old. With Aubrey Adams there was a man named Frankie Bonitto. These were piano players. And Ernest Ranglin. Everybody knows I saw him, too, at an early age. There was a bond amongst these guys that would play. I saw and identified with them and their styles," he said.

Discovered by Frank Sinatra as a 18-year-old in a Miami club called Le Bistro, 78-year-old Alexander is a giant of jazz. But he has never forgotten his Jamaican roots, which can be heard in the music he makes with Harlem To Kingston Express Live, a collective he formed over 20 years ago.

On August 6, it was announced that he is the recipient of the Order of Jamaica, Jamaica's fifth-highest honour. He was awarded the Order of Distinction in 2000.

With his Harlem-Kingston Express band, Alexander has recorded two genre-bending albums that incorporate the sounds he heard as a youth in Kingston. 'The K Aspect', a segment of the sextet's show, is dedicated to Kingston, his hometown.

"It has certainly evolved over the years. The K Aspect, which is Kingston where I was born and raised, has evolved into a richer presentation. I don't know how everybody feels but the older we get the deeper the roots come back up — and that's what's happened to me," he told the Jamaica Observer last November.

Since the 1990s, Alexander has recorded several well-received albums with Ranglin and Sly and Robbie. He has also done jazz interpretations of Bob Marley's songs as well as dub master Augustus Pablo.

In 2018, The University of the West Indies awarded Monty Alexander an honorary doctorate for his accomplishments and contribution to Jamaican music.

Monty Alexander playing the melodica.
Pianist Monty Alexander (left) and Ernie Ranglin in performance. (Photo: Observer file)
Howard Campbell

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