According to an interview with Monty Alexander conducted by Judith Schlesinger of the Jazz Institute of Chicago in 1999: “All musicians “play music” but not always in the fullest sense of that word. Few approach the challenge of making organized sound with the spontaneous delight of pianist and composer Monty Alexander.”

It is worthy to illustrate Monty Alexander”s illustrious career not solely by who he worked with and how many albums he created, but also by how his music has evolved.

In the last four decades, Monty has worked and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson and Herb Ellis for the “Triple Treat” series for the Concord label. He also contributed to the soundtrack of Clint Eastwood”s “Bird” and collaborated on Natalie Cole”s Grammy winning tribute to her father.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1944, Monty began playing piano and accordion at age six. Inspired by performances by Louis Armstrong and Nat (King) Cole at the Carib Theater in Jamaica, he created his own band “Monty and the Cyclones.” His Jamaican-infused music did not gain the recognition and notoriety until a New York Club owner and friend of Frank Sinatra, Jilly Rizzo, discovered him playing in Miami.

At Jilly”s New York club, Monty met vibeist Milt Jackson who eventually hired him. Soon thereafter, Monty Alexander began his association with bassist Ray Brown. His trio work (such as with drummer Jeff Hamilton and bassist John Clayton) is “unmatched in its mastery and exuberance,” according to Schlesinger.

In a Recent 1997 album, Echoes at Jilly (Concord), his straight-ahead jazz music celebrates the Sinatra Repertoire as well as the magical four-year period (1963-1967) when many of his jazz heroes came through the door.

Pianist Monty Alexander has reinvented his elegant piano jazz, infusing it with more Jamaican and acoustic jazz flavor. In 1999, Monty released an album on the Telarc label, Stir it Up, which pushed this Jamaican reggae feel with acoustic jazz. His most recent music venture in 2000 Monty Meets Sly and Robbie (Telarc) pushed for similar material.

One of the particularities of Monty”s piano work has been and still is his versatility. He is performing in a variety of contexts: As a soloist, in a trio format, with orchestras, big bands and a return to the roots with the unique jazz reggae sounds of Goin” Yard (Telarc).

“(Jazz) It is entertainment. Your obligation is to uplift people and make them feel better when they came in,” said Alexander.

Monty Alexander”s Trio will be perform this weekend on Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at the Bird Of Paradise in Ann Arbor.

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