‘Alexander The Great’ to jazz up Charley Parker Fest

Jazz musician Monty Alexander.

As many summer concert series fade into 2018 history, the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival revs up for a free, Summerstage season at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem.

Monty Alexander is slated to headline Saturday’s kickoff gig beginning at 3 pm. Dubbed Alexander the Great from one of his album titles, the veteran jazz pianist is taking his Harlem Kingston Express to the Village to pay tribute to the innovator and Bebop master named for the annual.

Fans are still talking about his last Brooklyn showcase at Brooklyn College when he invited his wife Italian Caterina Zapponi to sing opera and a few Jamaican folk songs.

The predominant Jamaican audience showered him with applause and sustained their gratitude and appreciation with a prolonged standing ovation inside the county space.

Those who experienced his accompaniment with Tony Bennett at the tree-lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center that ushered in the Christmas holidays also will also recall the Manhattan chill that he warmed a few years ago.

The Kingston, Jamaica-born, Grammy-winning musician will repeat that energy on Aug. 25.

“For the most part, when I play music, I smell it and see colors. Every song has its own personality, its own soul, and if I can’t feel it, I can’t play it with feeling. I don’t understand what it is that makes me different, but I feel I have very little in common with anybody else. I seem to be my own strange character. If I’m right in my motivations and attitude, amazing things happen,” Alexander said 18 years ago.

The 74-year-old who migrated to the United States with his family in 1961 has been musically associated with Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole, Ernest Ranglin and a multitude of prominent recording artists.

Alexander formed a reggae band in the 1990s, featuring all Jamaican musicians. He has released several reggae albums, including “Yard Movement,” “Stir It Up,” and a collection of composition by Bob Marley, his “Monty Meets Sly & Robbie” CD in 2000 and “Goin’ Yard” the following year

He collaborated again with Ranglin in 2004 on the album “Rocksteady.”

“I love Jamaica. I love America. I love them both together more than each one separately. I inhabit the rhythmic aspect of both things. I can’t explain why. I do it naturally and joyfully. I am confident and proud and privileged to say that I come from a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic thing. The slogan of Jamaica is like America’s ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ ‘out of many, one people,’”Alexander explained in 2014.

On this outing he will be joined by Catherine Russell, Keyon Harrold, and the Matthew Whittaker Trio.

Undoubtedly, Alexander will deliver a multi-cultural experience with jazz, blues and reggae in the mix.

The following day, Aug. 26, Gary Bartz Quartet, the Bad Plus, Amina Claudine Myers, Unheard: Adam O’Farrill, Immanuel Wilkins and Joel Ross will provide jazzy beats for the CPJF at Tompkins Square Park from 3 to 7 pm.

For more information, visit www.summerstage.org.

Jamaican jazz pianist, Monty Alexander & Harlem Kingston Express perfom on the Stravinski Hall stage at the 43rd Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland.
Associated Press / Keystone / Jean-Christophe Bott, file

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