Mid-Shore Arts: Monty Alexander Reflects on Jazz, Easton, and Hope

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If Chesapeake Music’s Monty Alexander Jazz Festival was just named to honor Alexander’s significant and lasting legacy as a jazz pianist over the last sixty years, that would be justification enough.  Monty’s accomplishments are well documented in the annals of jazz history, and the cumulative impact of his career would lend any jazz festival some important “street cred” with those that follow regional festivals around the world.

But when the Jazz festival’s founder, Al Sikes, drove up to New York City eight years ago to ask Monty if he would lend his name to a fledgling jazz festival in a pretty remote part of the Mid-Atlantic, Sikes knew that having a connection with the Jamaican-born musician was much more than honoring Monty’s performance career.

In many ways, it is Monty Alexander’s arc of experience in jazz over the last fifty years that makes it such an honor for Easton to host this annual event. Starting with small bars in Miami as a teenager, when he was first noticed by Frank Sinatra, and later been witness to every phase of jazz from the Mid-Century forward with friends such as Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, and or even Ravi Shankar.

The Spy caught up with Monty at Patsy’s, one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite joints in Manhattan, to talk about his Jazz Festival, but also about where jazz is these days. In particular, his observations on the early roots of jazz, where its disciples would learn on street corners from the masters, to the current world of contemporary jazz artists, many of whom are more likely than not hold degrees from such famous conservatories like Berklee and Juilliard.

Monty also talks about the theme for this year’s festival, which, to his own surprise, focuses on spirituality. In this case, it is his attempt to amplify the important role of hope in our complex world, or, in his own words, his effort to, “see the donut and not its hole.”

Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Music. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit here or call 410-819- 0380.

About Dave Wheelan

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