2010 - 2020
THROUGH THE DECADES
DOCTOR Monty Alexander
Kingston to Harlem
Harlem Kingston Express!
...and a Grammy Nomination
November 3, 2018
Monty receives his honorary doctorate (DLitt) from the prestigious University of the West Indies.
He is now Doctor Alexander and Commander of Distinction.
Here is that moment
Monty watches as the orator reads the citation.
UWI bestowed the same honorary doctorate (DLitt) to another Jamaican born notable entertainer, the all around world super star Grace Jones. Above a picture of the two of them sitting side by side chatting as they watch the proud parade of new graduands making their way through the stage, and here they are at the end of the ceremony.
All aboard the
Harlem Kingston Express!
His presentation Harlem Kingston Express is the culmination of years of searching for the formula that would allow him to keep both of his musical identities intact and interacting live on stage in the same space. “It fulfills me, because it’s my own life experience,” Alexander says. “It’s like Barack Obama music. We are all cut from the same cloth.”
The resulting effect of this formula is musical magic. In fact, it is not surprising a live recording of this newly created group, titled Harlem Kingston Express: Live! (Motema), received a Grammy nomination as best album in 2011..
A boxing aficionado since his earlier days in Jamaica, he offers the sweet science as a metaphor. “It’s like you go into the ring, and you throw the left, you throw the right, but whatever you throw, throw it right,” he says.“There’s almost always some kind of jet taking off when I transfer the music to one rhythm or the other.
MONTY: This combination interacts with each other and I trade up with them. The piano is indeed the centre of everything because I’m talking as we go. It’s never less than an exciting musical experience for all of us. We come there to make it feel good and we hope the audience will enjoy it just the way we do. I am embracing my love of American classic music such as Ellington, Basie, Charlie Parker and Erroll Garner with my native Jamaican rhythms, reggae and ska. So we just have a big ’ole party.
My greatest hero was Louis Armstrong. I’m a messenger of goodwill. When I play I try and make it right for me and everybody else, from straight ahead trio jazz to a combination of Jamaican music.
It’s a great moment in time, this is my 50th year as a professional musician, and Jamaica is celebrating 50 years of independence.
I look forward to playing for people and taking them uptown and downtown, meaning Harlem and Kingston, and making a statement of all things good about life.”
"I'm captain of the ship, and everything is freewheeling,” he says. "I'm dancing, myself. When I start playing music with a rhythm of some kind, or as we say in Jamaica 'riddim,' I feel it all up in my bones. I can't tell you a difference between the two worlds of jazz and Jamaican music, because one of the things I love to do is put them together. I play with this sense of rhythm, and I try to bring all the other players with me, it's gotta be ramping along in terms of making you want to move your being - your heart, mind and body."
(Don Albert, IOL, South Africa interview)
2012 Grammy Awards
Harlem Kingston Express: Live! was nominated for best reggae album February 12, 2012
In 2011 Monty celebrated 50 years in music & 50 Years of Jamaica's independence with 2 consecutive weeks of special concerts at the Blue Note
"When you come from another place and you have a chance to get in with the folks of whatever avenue you're going down, you're trying to fit in, and in order to fit in, you have to leave your stuff behind. I left the calypso and the island rhythms behind me, but they were always there in the back of my brain, and years and years go by, and then I started to go back to Jamaica more frequently, and I realized how much I really loved home, and I started to bring back the roots rhythms, The result was a multifaceted sound that eludes genre categorization and, consequently, a name. "Monty Alexander music, that's all I can come up with".
"I have so many different directions that I can go in and make something out of it that I'm constantly being motivated by that. So my music is alive, it's right now, it's here and now. That's it."
(Interview with NPR, 2012)
Footage of a rare concert reunion of Jamaican music titans: Monty with Ernest Ranglin and Sly & Robbie during their Japan tour 2011
Here is a video of the party event with special guest Shaggy plus Robbie on the bass
Montreux Alexander '76
Celebrated 40 years in 2016
A RARE TREAT
Interview from Vail Daily, 2016
These days, it's a rare treat when the three get together. When they do, they kick in right where they left off.
"I like to compare it to a family reunion," Hamilton said. "Like if you're sitting at the kids' table with your cousins, telling inside jokes and having a great time, then as adults you reconnect. It's not at the kids' table, but the feeling's the same. It brings a lot of joy to all of us. The happiness that occurs in the reunion, it's pure joy and people get that from the stage."
Because the trio has individually performed with so many other top musicians over the past four decades — Diana Krall, Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, etc. — they sometimes tweak a song on stage in a momentary detour that Hamilton calls a "snafu" but which any average listener might call a blast of genius.
"There is so much knowledge being thrown around when great musicians share a bandstand. How do you hit that magical place? I've tapped into it in my life a few times. I seem to be able to do it all the time with Jeff and John," Alexander said. "When John plays a note on the bass, it's like all the colors in the rainbow. You have to tap your foot, shake your you-know-what.
I love things when they have impact, when it has some oomph. There is no more oomph than Jeff Hamilton. If anybody does anything at any time, it's a magical symphony. Going back to the early days, almost every time we hit the bandstand, it was this monumental moment. We'd knock ourselves out, but the people would go nuts. It's like we're coming with a big stick. We're going to hit you over the head … in a nice way."
Monty Alexander, John Clayton & Jeff Hamilton at
Live in Marciac - 2011