Half Notes: Monty Alexander – Harlem-Kingston Express: Live (2011)

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source: montyalexander.com

Pretty much for the last twenty years, there have been two types of Monty Alexander records: one that features exuberant, evocative mainstream New York jazz and one that showcases Alexander’s unique Jamaican-styled jazz. Earlier this year, the Kingston piano great released the straight-up jazz trio live chronicles Uplift, a tremendous record that unsurprisingly shot up to the top of the jazz album charts. Today already comes his next album, also a collection of concert performances. But Harlem-Kingston Express: Live is one of his walks more on the Caribbean side, No wait, this is his jazz side. Actually, this is the record where Monty puts both sides together. He even built a band that’s structured to play both approaches, often at once. Backed by his Harlem-Kingston Express ensemble, the band is his bridge between the music culture of NY jazz and the various styles of Jamaica: reggae, dance hall, mento, and ska. Recorded mostly at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Alexander & Co. run through a repertoire of songs that have all appeared on some other Alexander album before. But not with this crack hybrid band. Though there are no slack tracks here, the best are a second-line presentation of “Hi Heel Sneakers,” the audience pleasing “Day-O (Banana Boat Song)” and a stirring performance of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry.”

(Listen to exclusive streaming tracks from Harlem-Kingston Express: Live).

Harlem-Kingston Express: Live is Alexander’s first release from the Motéma Music label. Visit Monty’s new website for his Harlem-Kingston Express band here.

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