The Artistry of… Monty Alexander

Monty Alexander’s music and music-making is pure gold.

He is massively proud of his heritage and culture. Jamaicans are a tenaciously proud people. That tenacious spirit takes no backseat with Alexander. He polishes the classics and every note played respects the history of the music. Every performance is a show. Fresh and never stale, never just because he can.

I have had the privilege of meeting and working with him, emceeing for a show honouring jazz kings Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones. Alexander is a gentleman and a seasoned professional, and he’s as creatively adventurous and curious and genuine as you could expect from the greatest artists.

From reggae to calypso and a kind of rocksteady R&B blend very much his own, Alexander’s music is constantly in a state of “what about this”-ness, with little twists and turns in the middle of a tune playing with rhythm and culture. It’s a little musical shot glass of sass with class.

The influences and experiences are all about the giants of jazz and the folk art and music giants of the Caribbean. The blend is as unique as all of the Americas, and unmistakably Monty Alexander. There’s a smile and twinkle in his eyes that finds its way into a little mischief at the keyboard; in a moment’s change, a seriousness and artistic message you might have just ever so slightly missed and did not see coming but felt and heard touches you as loudly and clearly as the heart and soul of the man himself.

The Artistry of… is a weekly series that reflects on the passion and essence of an artist. It airs Wednesday evenings on Dinner Jazz with John Devenish.