Pianist Monty Alexander is very much in tune with his Jamaican roots. Prior to this live exercise, his last two Telarc efforts found him paying homage to Bob Marley (Stir It Up) and collaborating with the famed producing team of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare (Monty Meets Sly and Robbie).
Here, the reggae influence is well represented, but so are his abilities as a contemporary jazzman. As a pianist, his style is fairly genteel. He's neither overly percussive nor a boring showboat. He also doesn't rely on the boogie-woogie tricks that other musicians employ to cover up their limitations. With a subtle if predictable touch, Alexander displays a live prowess that is still quite tight.
Although reggae fans may fast-forward to such familiar titles as Marley's "Could You Be Loved," some of his originals exhibit all the exotic energy and funkiness that personify the genre. On "Grub," he and his band cut loose a collage of enlivened rhythms and stealthy bass lines. Another original, "Trust," founders in a mire of corny balladry, but Alexander redeems himself with vibrant compositions like the upbeat "Hurricane" and the straight-up "Skankin' Lennox." Another highlight is the cover of Augustus Pablo's "King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown." Thanks to his outstanding sextet, which handles the intricate rhythms, he captures the hypnotic vibe behind a tune.
Red Cat Jazz Caf, 924 Congress
Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28. (713)227-2200
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As a representation of Alexander in concert, Goin' Yard (which implies not only a home run but also a trip to a Jamaican housing project) succeeds on several levels. Prime among these: The album isn't satisfied merely to showcase Alexander's status as a Jamaican jazz player who covers Marley standards. Instead, the live session finds Alexander melding larger cultures, Harlem and Kingston, and asserting himself as a capable musician and composer along the way.