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December 11, 2005

Ottawa Jazz Festival Hosts Benefit

Written by
cindy mcleod

The Ottawa Jazz Festival is holding their 8th Annual Fall Benefit Concert on December 15 2005, at the National Library and Archives Auditorium. The Festival celebrates its 25th Anniversary this year.

The Fall Benefit features a concert by the Monty Alexander Trio, who feature selections from his new recording Live at the Iridium along with a varied program of his music. His appearance in Ottawa follows Wynton Marsalis’ October date, which concluded the jazz festival’s 25th anniversary fall concert series.

Monty Alexander

A Jamaican born pianist, Alexander has a career that spans over fourty years, and has performed and/or recorded with a diversity of musicians including Frank Sinatra, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, Ernest Ranglis, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, and a host of others.

He was born and raised in Kingston, he began playing piano at the age of six. In his teens he was exposed to the music of Louis Armstrong, and Nat ‘King’ Cole, who appeared in the island’s nightclubs, and was influenced by the gospel shades in these greats’ music. Alexander first hit the music charts in Jamaica in the late 50�s with his group ‘Monty and the Cyclones’.

Moving to the US in 1961, he was playing a nightclub in Vegas when he attracted the attention of Frank Sinatra and his pal, New York nightclub owner Jilly Rizzo. Rizzo hired him to play his club, where was introduced to bassist Ray Brown, with whom he performed and recorded with on several occasions. One introduction begat another, and soon he was working with Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and Sonny Rollins. Over the years he’s built up a discography that numbers over 60 albums, and is a frequent performer at major jazz festivals and venues around the globe, including Montreaux, where he has become a fixture.

Alexander is a traditionalist in that he feels jazz is a dance music in it’s heart. His latest work blends the ska rhythms of his Jamaican childhood, and in the new millennium has recorded with fellow Jamaican superstars Ernest Ranglin, and rhythm section greats Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare.

While true to his roots, Alexander most important objective (aside from being the best musician he can be), is to express the joy of music regardless of differences in taste or culture. “The piano, to me, is a vehicle for connecting to ther human beings. I’m very open to all forms of music. I’m not a bebop musician, I’m not a calypso musician, I’m not a reggae musician. I’m a musician who loves it all.”

The Monty Alexander Trio performs Thursday, December 15th, at Library and Archives Canada, in Ottawa. For more information visit www.ottawajazzfestival.com

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