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Monty Alexander hails from Kingston, Jamaica. At the age of four, he began playing the piano, and by 14, he was already performing in rhythm and blues and calypso groups with other kids his age. During this time, he deeply absorbed all the rhythmic and melodic resources of Jamaican popular music, which would prove crucial to his future musical evolution.
He soon delved into jazz through the records of pianist Nat “King” Cole, who immediately became his primary source of inspiration. He became involved in Kingston’s jazz circles and familiarized himself with the music of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and others.
At the age of seventeen, he moved to Miami, where he started working as a pianist in the jazz club circuit. Soon, he could be seen performing in top venues such as the Play Boy Club in New York, the London House in Chicago, or Shelly’s Manne Hole in Los Angeles.
In the 1970s, he began gaining worldwide recognition, performing in concerts and festivals in the USA, Japan, and Europe. His historic performance at the 1976 Montreux Festival, recorded on MPS records, stands out. He secured successive recording contracts, working for labels such as Pacific Jazz, MPS, Concord Jazz, Pablo, RCA, Island, Telark, Chesky, and more. In total, Monty Alexander has recorded around a hundred albums as a leader.
Although best known as a solo pianist, Monty has maintained a parallel career as an accompanist, collaborating with some of the most important names in popular and jazz music: Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr., Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, and many others. In 1991, he collaborated with Natalie Cole on the album “Unforgettable,” which won seven Grammys. He also worked with Barbara Hendricks on a project dedicated to Duke Ellington’s themes. He has also contributed to the film industry, collaborating with Clint Eastwood on the soundtrack of the movie “Bird.” In 1995, he presented his Yard Movement project at the Montreux Festival, featuring Jamaican musicians, later released by Island as a CD. In 1999, he expanded this concept, creating the album “Stir it up” on Bob Marley compositions for Telark. In August 2000, he received the title of Commander in the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican Government for his services as a musical ambassador of Jamaica. Monty was ranked among the top five pianists of the moment in the book “The Fifty Greatest Jazz Piano Players of All Time” (New York, Hal Leonard, 2005). His album “Harlem Kingston Express Live!” was nominated for the 2011 Grammys. In 2018, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of West Indies. In 2022, he released “Love Notes,” his first album dedicated entirely to showcasing his skills as a singer.
Monty’s pianistic style has been likened to that of Oscar Peterson, Nat Cole, Ahmad Jamal, or Wynton Kelly. However, Monty possesses a highly individual personality that combines all these influences with traditional Jamaican rhythms and a special joie de vivre reflected in his strong personal energy.