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Concrete Jungle: The Music of Bob Marley

Monty Alexander

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Album Review

Monty Alexander has had significant success in recent years with his light, jazzy settings of vintage reggae songs, and while surely no one would begrudge him his enjoyable duo performances with guitar great Ernest Ranglin or his swinging updates of old rocksteady love songs, by covering the songs of Bob Marley he's opening himself up to criticism for turning what were meant as militant songs of protest into easy listening for well-to-do Babylonians. On the other hand, just because it's easy to listen to doesn't necessarily mean it's simpleminded: his highlife-flavored introduction to "Africa Unite" segues nicely into a rhythmically tough and surprisingly faithful setting of one of Marley's best repatriation anthems, and his bouncy take on "Simmer Down" nicely recalls the Wailers' wonderful early days as a ska band. But best of all is his quiet but intense arrangement of "Babylon System," a rare interpretation of a Marley song that reveals both the anger and the simple heartache that lie at the center of the song — on "Babylon System" you could hear Marley weeping for the wicked as well as crying out for justice for his people, and that anguish is brilliantly exposed in Alexander's arrangement. Elsewhere, a mento band massacres "Three Little Birds" and the inevitable "War" sheds no new light at all on what was always one of Marley's weakest compositions in terms of pure music, but overall this is an insightful and deeply enjoyable album.

Biography

Born: 06 June 1944 in Kingston, Jamaica

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Monty Alexander long ago combined together the influence of Oscar Peterson with the soul of Gene Harris and Nat "King" Cole to form his own appealing and personable style. Long a bit underrated (due to the shadow of Peterson), Alexander has recorded more than a score of excellent albums. Monty Alexander began piano lessons when he was six and he played professionally in Jamaican clubs while still a teenager; his band, Monty and the Cyclones, was quite popular locally during 1958-1960. He first played...
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Concrete Jungle: The Music of Bob Marley, Monty Alexander
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