“I’m a Jamaican. I’m an American. I’m a proud Jamaican. Identity crisis? No… identities embraced!”
These words are the first thing you see when opening the booklet accompanying the physical CD of Monty Alexander’s newest album Harlem-Kingston Express Vol. 2: The River Rolls On released today. The liner notes are a great reflection on a collection of songs recorded in New York City, yet still contain a common thread reflecting Alexander’s roots in Kingston, Jamaica. His formative years there included ditching school to jump on sessions with Celement “Coxsone” Dodd, Duke Reid, and Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records. These personified catalysts for the sound systems in Jamaican dance halls were directly responsible for Alexander’s pursuit of music.
While the first volume of this series came as a result of a live set recording of his trio with an added rhythm section at the Lincoln Center, which went on to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album, the second installment is Alexander’s attempt to take the music closer to his rhythm and roots heritage. He even went as far as to offer two original vocal presentations with “Love Notes” and “The River Rolls On.”
Each song contains a story, which Monty would gladly explain, and each story lends itself to a complete narrative formulated in the mind of one of the best jazz pianist alive right now. Soak in these tunes and be prepared to hear them executed by a master of the keys during Telluride Jazz Festival in August.