Monty Alexander (born Montgomery Bernard Alexander on June 6, 1944 in Kingston, Jamaica) is a jazz pianist, who also plays the melodica. His playing has a strong Caribbean influence and swinging feeling, but he has also been influenced by Art Tatum, Osc...
Monty Alexander (born Montgomery Bernard Alexander on June 6, 1944 in Kingston, Jamaica) is a jazz pianist, who also plays the melodica. His playing has a strong Caribbean influence and swinging feeling, but he has also been influenced by Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Wynton Kelly, and Ahmad Jamal.
Alexander discovered the piano when he was four years old, took classical music lessons at the age of six and became interested in jazz piano at the age of 14, and began playing in clubs, and on recording sessions by Clue J & His Blues Blasters, deputising for Aubrey Adams, whom he describes as his hero, when he was unable to play. Two years later, he directed a dance orchestra (Monty and the Cyclones) and played in the local clubs. Performances at the Carib Theater in Jamaica by Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole left a strong impression on the young pianist.
Alexander and his family moved to Miami, Florida in 1961 and he went to New York in 1962 and started to play at Jilly Rizzo's jazz club Jilly's. In addition to performing with Frank Sinatra there, he also met and became friends with bassist Ray Brown and vibist Milt Jackson. In California, in 1964, Alexander recorded his first album, Alexander the Great, for Pacific Jazz at the age of 20.
Alexander recorded with Milt Jackson in 1969, with Ernest Ranglin in 1974 and in Europe the same year with Ed Thigpen. He toured regularly in Europe and recorded there, mostly with his classic trio for MPS Records. He also toured around 1976 with the steelpan player Othello Molineaux. Alexander has also played with several singers such as Ernestine Anderson, Mary Stallings and other important leaders (Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Golson, Jimmy Griffin and Frank Morgan). In his successive trios, he has played frequently with musicians associated with Oscar Peterson: Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Mads Vinding, Ed Thigpen and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen.
In the mid-1970s he formed a group consisting of John Clayton on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums, creating a stir on the jazz-scene in Europe. Their most famous collaboration (and arguably Alexander's finest album) is Montreux Alexander, recorded during the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 1976.
He formed a reggae band in the 1990s, featuring all Jamaican musicians, and he has released several reggae albums, including Yard Movement (1996), Stir It Up (1999, a collection of Bob Marley songs), Monty Meets Sly & Robbie (2000), and Goin' Yard (2001). He collaborated again with Ranglin in 2004 on the album Rocksteady.
Alexander married the American jazz guitarist Emily Remler in 1981, the marriage ending in divorce in 1985.