When he was ten years old, he shook hands with Louis Armstrong. At fourteen, he was skipping school to go to the recording studio to make ska, the music of the moment in his land, Jamaica. He knocked once for duke ellingtonand went Frank Sinatra, after listening to him once in Miami when he was a kid, who told him that he was worth it and that he had to go to New York to find a life. And boy did he do it. Monty Alexander, “honorable member of the Order of Jamaica & rdquor;as he asked to be presented on Sunday in Terrassa, has lived a lot and likes to tell it.
man of the world and entertainer from before, has an anecdote for every jazz legend he has come across, and he has come across many. On the walls of the Nova Jazz Cava he saw a photo of an old friend of his, the vibraphonist Milt Jackson, with whom he performed in this same city forty years ago. And to that generation of bygone giants, of which he himself was a part, he dedicated the first piece of the night, the classic “Django”.
At a very young age Monty Alexander made a name for himself in New York speaking the language of the city, American jazz. He still speaks it as well as anyone. In Terrassa, in front of a versatile trio that is attentive to its constant changes of direction, Alexander proved that At almost 80 years old, he retains the spark, the skill and the authority that earned him comparisons with jazz grand sedan pianists like Oscar Peterson. But Alexander is proud to be Jamaican, and now more than ever, he makes those roots his flag.
In Terrassa he invoked Ellington and the Modern Jazz Quartet, but also Bob Marley vThere was an emotional medley of “Redemption Song” and “No Woman No Cry”, to the greatest applause at the concert that closed the 42nd Jazz Terrassa Festival. But his Jamaica is not just that of commonplaces. He swapped swinging for ska in a piece full of nods to movie soundtracks. James Bond. And when he drew the melodica to summon the mists of King Tubby he mutated from jazz pianist to dub magician.
Alexander is a man of effect blows. Play colorful and like to like. He knows that a show, even a jazz one, calls for change, novelty and surprise. Some ideas fall into favor and others -his extravagant version of the “Concierto de Aranjuez & rdquor ;, the syrupy song that he sang at the end with his wife as a guest- are still a bit excessive. But even in the most gimmicky gestures, Monty Alexander sounds genuine. Nothing in his way of being on stage seems set up. Because that’s how he conceives music, like a party, like a collective celebration in which he is the star, yes, but the others are the chorus that amplifies it. “This music is fun to play & rdquor ;, he said before saying goodbye. And to listen, too.