Monty Alexander – D-Day (ENG review)

Peewee music – Street date March 29th 2024
Monty Alexander – D-Day (ENG review)

Monty Alexander celebrates his 80th birthday, coinciding with the 80th anniversary of World War II. I’ve always admired this pianist, composer, and singer, and this album is no exception to that rule. Always oscillating between poetry and zest for life, with a pianistic style characterized by a light touch, deftly delivering artistic intentions at the right moments, this album contains a collection of iconic compositions written during the wartime period, as well as originals:

  • “I’ll Never Smile Again,” written in 1939, Frank Sinatra’s success during the World War II years.
  • “Smile,” written by Charlie Chaplin for his film Modern Times in 1936. “Smile, even though your heart is aching, smile, even though it’s breaking, stand firm.”
  • “D-Day (Just Wait),” “Why (that’s why),” “River of Peace,” “Restoration”… these compositions inspired by the conflict and its extraordinary resolution explore the emotions left by that unique moment, the heroism of the fighters, the hope for a fresh start, renewed trust in one another, and the sense of sacrifice.

This album takes on particular significance at a time when tensions are visible between Western countries and Russia, China, North Korea, and the various terrorist groups proliferating here and there, feeding off the poverty of peoples. With “D-Day” and Alexander’s specific compositions, it seems to compel us to reflect while also bringing a form of happiness. However, it’s worth recalling Monty Alexander’s fascinating history: Arriving in the United States at the age of 17, he quickly captivated a certain Frank Sinatra, who facilitated his thunderous arrival in the realm of the greatest jazzmen of the time. He accompanied the inventors of bebop: Milt Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Griffin, Benny Golson, and continued in the grand tradition of swing and orchestral pianists: from Nat King Cole (himself influenced by Earl Fatah Hines), to Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, and Wynton Kelly. He forged unwavering friendships with them. He recorded for Pacific Jazz for the first time under his own name at the age of 20, with an album bursting with energy, introducing the young prodigy to the world. Critics spoke of “accessible jazz, joyful, expansive swing, without drama.”
Though the years have passed, Monty Alexander remains the same, with the added experience evident in the intelligent and meticulous arrangements of the tracks, perfectly accompanied by bassist Luke Sellick and drummer Jason Brown. In this configuration, the album sounds like a live recording, with Monty Alexander’s natural way of playing influencing his comrades. Once again, it’s an album that proves indispensable to all jazz piano enthusiasts. Alexander is enduring, and his warmth permeates through his recordings. However, you’ll have to wait until the end of March to enjoy this album.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, February 28th 2024


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