With his newest CD My America
, Jamaican born Monty Alexander provides a musical collage representing the United States of America. The recording is a veritable smorgasbord of music including Cole Porter’s cowboy song "Don’t Fence Me In," the sophisticated writing of Duke Ellington’s "Rockin’ in Riddim," and rhythm and blues/soul/funk standards "Hallelujah I Love Her So," "Sex Machine," and "Sexual Healing." Also, Alexander includes tunes made famous by American icons of popular music and jazz, Nat "King" Cole ("Straighten Up and Fly Right"), Louis Armstrong/Bobby Darrin/Ella Fitzgerald ("Mack the Knife") and Frank Sinatra ("Summer Wind"). A fitting coda to this recording is Alexander’s arrangement of "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
In addition to the tight rhythm section accompanying Alexander, he also has assistance from Freddy Cole and John Pizzarelli on vocals, and Kevin Mahogany’s rich baritone voice on Ray Charles’ "Hallelujah I Love Her So." Alexander also includes one of his own original compositions, "The River Rolls On," with vocals by Cat.
The musicianship on My America
is first rate, with fine soloing by Alexander and others, and he does more than merely "cover" these American standards. Alexander presents new and fresh interpretations of familiar music. For example, the humor of "Straighten Up and Fly Right" is enhanced by the rather "campy" verbal interaction between Alexander and Cole during the introduction to the tune. On his performance of "Mack the Knife," Alexander opts for the melodica rather than the piano giving this tune about a murderer an antithetical "light" sound. Alexander even pays homage to his original homeland with his arrangement of "Summer Wind," that maintains a hint of Reggae in the accompanying rhythm section. Alexander even quotes, among other melodies, "Caravan" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" during his improvisation on James Brown’s "Sex Machine."
Alexander states in the liner notes of the CD, "To be a musician and to live in this marvelous country is my dream come true." My America
is a fitting musical tribute to America, and is a recommended addition to anyone’s jazz CD collection.