Monty Alexander played at the club 12/07/18 and 12/08/18
In a career spanning five decades, pianist Monty Alexander has built a reputation exploring the worlds of American Jazz, popular song, and the music of his native Jamaica, finding in each a sincere spirit of musical expression.
How did you come to play the piano? What is your personal story?
My story is a very big mystery. I can’t be specific. As a little guy of three or four years old, I was just attracted to the old piano that my mother had in the house. Nobody was really playing it, but it was there, and it made a sound, so I started to, I guess, express myself from that early age. And then, little by little, I’m playing songs, and I’m playing a rhythm, and I would play so people would come and enjoy and smile. I realized it was a wonderful thing and I just kept doing it.
I did not go to music school, and I didn’t learn to read well. I had a piano lady who taught me some piano, but I didn’t really enjoy the experience. She meant well, but I didn’t like how she was slapping me on my fingers and all that stuff. I didn’t like that, and she wanted me to play classical music, and I didn’t want to play classical music. I liked music with a beat and a groove, you know. So that’s been my life.
When did you go from amateur to professional, in your mind?
In my mind, professional is when somebody actually said they wanted me to play somewhere and they would pay me. I was shocked that they wanted to pay me because when you do something you really enjoy, you’re kind of surprised that someone would pay for it. And then, little by little, from about 15 years old, I had a little job and another little job and played in a band in school.
I never took it seriously, that it could’ve been a profession, but I was amazed. And the next thing you know, I’m in New York, and the excitement, and I’m hanging out with these great musicians like Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley and all my heroes.
What would you like to say to your fans?
Oh my gosh. If they like what I do, and there are so many different demographics, people that appreciate my kind of stuff, piano playing and so on. Just remember music is what brings us all together. My approach that gives me a reason is the joy of thinking that I’m bringing people together and they walk out of the club or the concert hall feeling good.
That’s what I’ve been doing from the beginning, and I’m going to keep doing it until I can’t do it anymore.
What do you think about the club?
This is a really nice place to make music, and I’ve been around doing this for a long time. I remember those few places that really were jewels; they stuck out, and usually, it was because whoever operated it had that extra dose of care and knowledge.
And our impresario, our producer, Mr. Morganelli, is that kind of guy, and he knows the difference between okay and excellent. He bought a beautiful instrument, the piano, and I can’t wait to put that in my mouth, the pasta. This is a top-class place to compare to the best of them. Jazz Forum is a-okay!