Monty Alexander – My America
(Telarc Jazz – 2002)
by Matthew S. Robinson
What does it mean to be an American?
For Jamaican-born pianist Monty Alexander, it means one thing music. Yet within that one thing lies an impressive diversity which Alexander tackles impressively. From Pop standards like Kurt Weill’s “Mack the Knife” and Nat Cole’s “Straighten Up and Fly Right” (sung by Nat’s son Freddy) to Soul classics like Rev. Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” and Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” Speaking of “sex” (another great American pastime), Alexander lays down the funk on an extended “soul/yard meeting” of James Brown’s “Sex Machine.”
Speaking of special guests (and Soul), in addition to the younger Cole, another famous son, John Pizzarelli, takes his turn at the mike for a Jamaican-tinged zephyr through Johnny Mercer’s “Summer Wind” and Kevin Mahogany does the honors for the Ray Charles classic “Hallelujah I Love Her So.” That is not to say that this is strictly a standards and Soul album, however. In tribute to his early cowboy heroes, Alexander opens the set with Cole Porter’s jaunty “Don’t Fence Me In,” and in honor to the country he is now proud to call home, he closes with a triumphant build into “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” In between is a musical portrait of our great country and the great men who have set it to music.
©2002, M. S. Robinson, ARR