Perhaps no two other artists have played with more jazz legends that pianists Monty Alexander and Les McCann. Born in Jamaica, Alexander would meld ska with traditional jazz to collaborate with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole, John Pizzarelli, Freddy Cole, Kevin Mahogany and many others. While McCann’s associations with Ray Charles Count Basie, Zoot Sims, Charlie Byrd, Lou Rawls, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Duke Ellington and garnered him a permanent place in music history. Jazz at the Bistro hosted these two dynamic performers from April 14-17, 2004.
One of the most remarkable aspects about Alexander’s style is his ability to fluidly take a song in many directions. For instance, an individual arrangement might move from a gentle shuffle to an expansive toe-tapping pace. His rendition of "The Candy Man" on Thursday, April 15, 2004, was a luxuriously full of twists and turns with a dynamic solo by Mark Taylor on drums. While Alexander was clearly the bandleader, the trio played effortlessly as a cohesive unit. Together, they seamlessly utilized space and movement in Bob Marley’s "Running Away" with a masterful solo by bassist Hassan Shakur.
Halfway through the set, special guest Les McCann took to the stage and kicked up the pace to a party vibe with "Little Blue Volkswagon." The packed crowd joined in for several delightfully boisterous sing-a-longs that included McCann’s signature song "Compared to What." Alexander and McCann would continue with the high-energy performance throughout the remainder of the evening.
Jazz at the Bistro is a not-for-profit listening room located in St. Louis, Missouri. For additional information, visit www.jatb.org.