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Giant Steps: Monty Alexander

It’s February would have been reggae titan Bob Marley’s 72nd (born 1945) birthday today and you can’t talk about the soul of black music without talking about bob Marley - brash, political, a sound rooted in the African diaspora as much as it was rooted in the blues of the American South. He is A Reggae ambassador and global superstar. There is no doubt that the great jazz pianist Monty Alexander would agree with all of the above.

The two were born right around the same time on the island of Jamaica, but the two took very different musical paths. Monty’s family moved to Miami and the young pianist soon pulled his piano bench up to the  New York jazz scene becoming tight with Ed Thigpen, Milt Jackson Benny Golson and Sinatra. Monty Alexander the  hard groovin' melodic post be-bop leader and sideman was born. All the while Bob Marley was making an international name for himself...bringing reggae’s upside down groove to the masses. When Bob died of cancer in 1981, he left a musical vacuum but he also left behind a body of incredible songs.

Monty Alexander took on that music in a big way - recording 4 albums devoted to reggae, specifically to Marley’s songbook - bringing together rhythm heavy session musicians including guitar great Ernest Ranglin from Jamaica and his US jazz compatriots - among them trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis. The outcome is a melding of two traditions that speak to the heart and soul and driving rhythm of the African Diaspora.

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