With more than five decades of career, Monty Alexander had taken classical music lessons ever since he was 6, and at 14 years old he had already started playing in the clubs in Kingston. At the same time, he made his first recordings, both as frontman for Monty and the Cyclones, and as contributor to some projects that have offered Jamaican music worldwide recognition, like Skatalities.
In 1961, Alexander moved with his family to Miami, and in less than two years, he was hired by Jilly Rizzo in his club, where the pianist had the opportunity to play alongside Frank Sinatra. In the process of exploring American jazz and the music from his native country, the artist has played and recorded with several other big names in the industry, such as: Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Ernest Ranglin, Barbara Hendricks, Bill Cosby, Bobby McFerrin, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare and others. At his 72 years of age, he has more than 70 albums released as frontman. These albums contain both influences of classic jazz and his Jamaican roots, and effervescent rhythms or sophisticated vocals. Moreover, his collaborations include a multitude of genres, styles and generations. His projects vary from assisting Natalie Cole in her tribute album for her father Nat “King” Cole, Unforgettable (which received seven Grammy awards), to recording the piano song from the movie Bird, directed by Clint Eastwood, about the life of Charlie Parker.
Through the project Monty Alexander and The Harlem Kingston Express, the pianist has harnessed the fusion of the two genres to a superior level. The Harlem-Kingstone Express is more than a musical projection resulted from the conjuction of the two cities’ spirits, encapsulating, at the same time, the energy and passion typical to jazz and raggae. We can say that there are actually two different bands, each respecting the purity of its genre, with Monty Alexander’s piano as a liaison that brings them together.