Jamaican Born, Grammy Nominated Maestro Dr. Monty Alexander Spotlights On Rastafarian, Thelonious Monk And The West Indian Influences Of Jazz On New Album
Dr. Monty Alexander, CD. (Hollis King Image)
CaribPR Wire, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. Sept. 19, 2019: Jamaica’s world-renowned, Grammy-nominated international musician, Dr. Monty Alexander, CD, celebrated his 75th birthday in style this year, releasing his new album that has already grabbed the number 1 spot on US Jazz and NACC radio a mere 2 weeks after its release.
‘Wareika Hill RastaMonk Vibrations’ is an album unlike any that Dr. Alexander has released in his more than five decades in the music business. Perhaps it is the wisdom of getting older and reflecting on one’s own musical journey that has resulted in the Mountain View, Kingston-born, Caribbean immigrant taking fans on a historical stroll down the jazz alley he has trodden, which pays tribute to the West Indian musical influences and influencers of the genre in American history.
As Dr. Alexander tells it, the album is a compilation that encapsulates the genres of roots, reggae, ska and jazz into one album – all of which have had significant impact on his musical psyche and made him into the West Indian jazz maestro he is today.
From a child of 8 observing Rastafarians going up Wareika Hill behind his house in Mountain View and hearing the sounds of their drums, to sneaking into the Federal Recording Studios at age 14 to play piano rhythms with the musicians accompanying Jamaican singers like Keith and Enid Laurel Aitken and others recording for producers like Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid and Chris Blackwell, and then learning of American Jazz musician Thelonious Monk from Rasta trumpeter Jackie Willacy to hearing and then meeting the North Carolina-born jazz musician, Alexander’s ‘Wareika Hill RastaMonk Vibrations’ captures it all, while paying the most profound compliment to Monk and Rastafarianism.
“Maybe it was just my childhood memories connecting the two, but I was left with a deep impression that the world of Monk and Rasta were one spirit,” commented Dr. Alexander. “I always thought that Monk’s compositions naturally lent themselves to West Indian and Rastafarian rhythms, perhaps accidentally or perhaps because as a child in Jamaica I had unconsciously merged and fused Rastafarians with Thelonious Monk.”
The 14-track album is dedicated to Theodore Sonny Rollins and the memory of Melbourne Bob Cranshaw and includes Dr. Alexander’s adaptation of several songs written by Monk such as ‘Misterioso,’ ‘Rhythm a ning’ and ‘Nutty,’ as well as two songs Monk played but did not write: “Abide with Me,” a beloved Christian hymn, and “Bensha Swing,” which was written by Monk’s friend and drummer, the Barbadian-roots Denzil Best.
“This should have been spelled ‘Bimsha,’ which is how Barbadians refer to themselves,” said Dr. Alexander. “‘Bemsha Swing,’ Barbados and swing – the connection with Monk and Jazz and Island rhythms was there all along given that Monk vibrated with West Indian roots musicians like Herbie Nichols, Russel Procope, Matthew Gee, Blue Mitchell, Fats Navarro, “Tricky” Sam Nanton, Carmen McRae, Arthur Taylor, Leonard Gaskin and a host of others.”
Musicians Ron Blake, Wayne Escoffery, Andrae Murchison, Joe Lovano John Scofield, J.J. Shakur, Jason Brown, Obed Calvaire, Karl Wright, Leon Duncan, Courtney Panton, Junior Wedderburn, Abashani Wedderburn, Bongo Billy and Earl Appleton appear on Dr. Alexander’s new album, merging their talent with his to create an indomitable sound that is truly and distinctly ‘RastaMonk Vibrations.’
For a sample from Dr. Monty Alexander’s latest album or to hear the backstory, visit him on YouTube or at montyalexander.com. You can also like him on Facebook at facebook.com/officialmontyalexander or keep up to date on his performances on Twitter at @montyHKE.
Felicia J. Persaud
Hard Beat Communications