1970-1980

MONTREUX ALEXANDER

& MPS Records

Monty's discography already included five leader LPs when he made his first MPS recording in 1971, with bassist Eugene Wright, drummer Duffy Jackson and conguero Montego Joe. By 1977, when he made the tenth of his twelve sessions for MPS (Estate), he was internationally recognized as an upper-echelon master, deeply influenced by Brown’s “let’s party all night” approach to the piano trio function, as documented on two early ’70s dates with Wright and drummer Bobby Durham (We’ve Only Just Begun and Perception) and another two with bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton (The Way It Is and Montreux Alexander ‘76) with whom he spent, by his estimate, 300 days a year on the road during their 1976-1978 association. Their most famous collaboration is Montreux Alexander, recorded during the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 1976.

A pin with Monty's photo made by the London House (Chicago) in 1972--the days when venues would hire groups for 3 weeks straight and sold pins to promote their artists....

​Re-released in 2016 - The 40th Anniversary Edition

Click photos to enlarge 

REVIEW: "One of the best piano jazz trio recordings ever made in a live setting, and definitely one of the best performances with impressive rhythm and constant excitement, not a dull second on this LP, with a gracious blend of creativity, spontaneity and virtuosity that are not easy to repeat, at least not sounding this good!"  - Vinyl Gourmet

This live recording from the famed festival by Lake Geneva qualifies as one of the piano trio classics of the 1970’s as well as a milestone in the Jamaican pianist’s catalogue. The 1976 album captures the moment in Alexander’s young career when he began to be compared to such giants as Oscar Peterson. Monty’s play combines the proficiency of his Canadian colleague with the feel of the Caribbean and a touch of gospel. 

Bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton form a sympatheticcohesive rhythm section, and their clear-cut, penetrating solos are outstanding. The show captivated the audience from the first piece, an Ahmad Jamal composition that Alexander played with inspired blues variations, on through the soulful contemplations in “Feelings”.

There is an exuberance to the swing on the Ellington piece “Satin Doll”, whereas the 

classic blues “Drown in My Own Tears” is played with sublime, gospel-tinged gravity. An archaic Afro-atmosphere permeates “Work Song”, as Clayton shows off his virtuoso talents. With its whimsical, infectious dramaturgy, “Battle Hymn of the Republic” stands out as a classic. After four and a half decades the infectious magic of that night in Montreux remains alive and palpable.

ALEXANDER CLAYTON & HAMILTON
How it all happened....
 
The trio performed together all over the world, 50 weeks a year, hypnotizing crowds everywhere with their uncanny magic.
 
​(Interview from Vail Daily, 2016)

"I call it serendipity." A pair of students in the Midwest had more than learned his name. Alexander met John Clayton as "this skinny guy in high school or college." The two jammed together and kept in touch as Clayton enrolled at Indiana University to study music. A few years later, Alexander's bass player became sick before a gig in Annapolis. The pianist needed to find a quick replacement. Clayton happened to have recently graduated. Alexander said to himself, "I'll take a chance," and invited Clayton to perform with him. Then there was a need for a new drummer, and Clayton suggested a friend from school - Jeff Hamilton. They called him in for an audition.

"Here I am now on the bandstand with these two younger guys," Alexander said. "It was this sense of communication.…. I don't know what to call it, their willingness to go along with my shenanigans. Then this thing like a fireball, like an avalanche of enthusiasm developed. We developed this great thing that you couldn't put your finger on. That's 41 or 42 years ago now. I still can't explain it."

Monty Alexander

Clayton and Hamilton know exactly what Alexander is talking about, but they, too, struggle to articulate the dynamic.

Monty with John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton in front of Ronnie Scott's in 1976.

"The best I can do is say that both John and I wanted to play with Monty when we were 19 and 20 years old. We got his albums and learned all we could," Hamilton said. "We thought if we got good enough we could play with Monty Alexander. "From that experience the week of the audition, we all knew we were on the same page. We all heard the beat the same. We were all intuitive to what each other were going to do. We knew where we were going, and nobody else did."

                                                Jeff Hamilton

Monty Alexander in Person with Jazz Times

on Ray Brown, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton

"Communication is crucial to what we do. That will be immediately evident when anyone comes to our concert," Clayton said. "Our communication style is one that relies on focused listening to one another, eye contact, peripheral vision, facial expressions, voiced instructions, intuition and probably a good dose of voodoo."

                                               John Clayton

Monty performed on Quincy Jones’ 1970 Smackwater Jack album, sharing piano duties with Herbie Hancock, and on classic albums with Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry live at the 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival.

Monty at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Clark Terry and Milt Jackson (1977)

"Mean to Me" -Ray Brown (bass), Milt Jackson (vibraphone), Clark Terry (flugelhorn), Eddie Davis (tenor saxophone), Monty Alexander (piano), Jimmy Smith (drums), Montreux '77.

By 1977, when he made the tenth of his twelve sessions for MPS (Estate), he was internationally recognized as an upper-echelon master, deeply influenced by Brown’s “let’s party all night” approach to the piano trio function, as documented on two early ’70s dates with Wright and drummer Bobby Durham (We’ve Only Just Begun and Perception) and another two with bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton (The Way It Is and Montreux Alexander).

On the left the list of musicians with Dizzy Gillespie's sextet at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1977. One of the several presentations by Dizzy Gillespie that included Monty's piano chops...

On most of his other MPS recordings, Alexander shared solo and ensemble duties with Ranglin including the still-sampled groove albums Rass and Cobilimbo, on which he explicitly explored Jamaican folk roots.

He did the same on Jamento (1978), his second of three recordings for Norman Granz’s Pablo label, which introduced his “ivory and steel” concept of “marrying” steel pan (Vince Charles) and hand-drums (Larry McDonald) “to whatever bass player and drummer I had at the time.” He would repeat this instrumentation on the 1980 album Ivory and Steel (Concord), with Othello Molineaux on pans and Bobby Thomas on congas, and again in 1988 on Jamboree (Concord).

Pictorial Album - 1970's-80's

P*R*E*S*S*

3.21.1974

Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York)

11.21.1971

Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York)

11.20.1977

Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, Nebraska)

11.21.1976

The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California)

3.24.1972

Chicago Tribune

9.19 .1972

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

6.7.1974

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

4.14.1974

The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia,