Monty Alexander Trio at Tanglewood
August 25, 2004 performance; by Dave Read
Monty Alexander peered out from the Ozawa Hall stage at Tanglewood, saw the auditorium half full, and proceeded to deliver a concert of upbeat and optimistic music to an enthusiastic audience that occupied way less than half the hall. Such is the nature of the Jamaican-born pianist, whose reputation apparently carries insufficient weight in the Tanglewood market, despite a fifty year career, more than 60 albums as a leader, and performance credits with legends of jazz including Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra, Benny Golson, and Oscar Peterson.
The concert began with a piece that quoted I Got Rhythm, begun by drummer Dennis Mackrel (Obed Calvaire was listed in the program) and bassist Hassan Shakur before Alexander made his entrance. A few minutes later, his composition Look Up seemed to be running alongside the A Train, and the next tune, Just Wait, was written in response to a successful bout with cancer.
Mr. Alexander evinced an easy rapport with the audience, even if he did seem to value his early experience with Sinatra more highly than today’s jazz fan would. And he was as generous with his sidemen as any leader could be. He stood aside while Shakur took a long ambling solo that somehow encountered The Pink Panther along the way. Other familiar tunes heard tonight were Come Fly With Me, Day O, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and Sweet Georgia Brown.
The BSO was bolder than usual during the 2013 Tanglewood season with its “Popular Artist” programming. Tonight’s program had all the requisite merit on the artistic side, but as with a few earlier events, the marketing effort wasn’t up to par. That is unfortunate because, just as a full house can raise the level of excitement, a nearly empty one can be an un unhappy distraction.