[20 June 2014]
With Harlem-Kingston Express Vol. 2: The River Rolls On, Jamaican-born pianist Monty Alexander continues his musical exploration of the music of his home country within a jazz context. An understated, tasteful pianist in the post-bop tradition, Alexander ably navigates a number of reggae-tinged numbers, delivering each in a fairly utilitarian style, occasionally displaying flashes brilliance in the deceptively complex melodic structures he executes with relative ease. On “Concierto De Aranjuez” he manages to quote both “So What” and “Fur Elise” within the same line, while dexterously dancing around the song’s Latin melody.
The only mildly off-putting moments come when Alexander and company take on more recognizable fare. Their readings of “The Harder They Come” and “Redemption Song”, and a rather inexplicable take on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, toe the line between cruise-line kitsch and straight-ahead crossover jazz successes. Unfortunately, the moments of relative brilliance on each tend to be overshadowed by the often clunky approach to the main melodic figure of each. These missteps aside, Harlem-Kingston Express Vol. 2: The River Rolls On is by and large an enjoyable modern jazz recording, largely due to its stylistic diversity and melding of seemingly dissimilar styles.