Jamaican born jazz prodigy Monty Alexander this year celebrates fifty years in the music industry, and to mark the milestone, Alexander is hosting a two-week Jazz & Reggae festival at the world-famous Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. The festival is billed the Full Monty Experience and live performances run from February 20 to March 4, 2012.
In a career spanning five decades, Monty Alexander has successfully bridged the worlds of jazz, pop, and the music of his homeland, reggae. The festival will primarily be a retrospective to spotlight Monty’s astonishing fifty years in music and on each night of the festival, a specially invited hand-picked talent will perform alongside Monty in accordance with designated themes. The first week will see performances from jazz greats like Russell Malone (guitar), Christian McBride (bass), Dr. Lonnie Smith on the Hammond B3 organ, jazz guitar genius Pat Martino, Dee Dee Bridgewater, jazz vocalist, bass and drum duo John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton and Freddie Cole, Nat King Cole’s youngest brother who just turned eighty and whose live performance is a rare treasure.
Week two is a “One Love Celebration” that will pay homage to the Jamaican side of Alexander’s heritage. It will journey through the early years of mento, ska, rock steady and culminate in the art form that the world has now wholeheartedly embraced called reggae. The guest list includes Shaggy, Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare, Toots Hibbert and Diana King. Jamaican guitar sensation Ernest Ranglin is also a specially invited guest, but he plays on the opening first night of February 20.
Apart from the upcoming festival, this year holds other noteworthy accomplishments for Monty Alexander. His latest album, Harlem- Kingston Express sat comfortably atop the Jazz World Chart for fourteen weeks, and this critically acclaimed set has been nominated for a Grammy award in the Best Reggae Album category. Despite Alexander’s vast international appeal, the Grammy nomination is a first for his illustrious career, and it comes at a time when Jamaica is also celebrating the island’s fiftieth anniversary of independence.
“I am acutely aware of my early music roots and the role that the Jamaican foundation has played in shaping my eclectic American musical journey”, Monty declared proudly. “Influences from pioneers like Coxone Dodd , Duke Reid and Chris Blackwell are all a part of who I am and the Full Monty Experience will represent the entire musical spectrum”, Alexander added. But for right now, Monty’s joy comes from the satisfaction of seeing people from different colors, creed, lifestyles and folks from all walks of life coming together to enjoy the compelling and uncompromisingly luscious music that he creates.