NEW ON CD
Jamaican pianist draws inspiration from Marley on reggae CD
"Concrete Jungle: The Music of Bob Marley"
Monty Alexander (Telarc)
The vaunted Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander returns to his roots yet again for the follow-up to his 1999 "Stir It Up" album, drawing inspiration from the Lion of Reggae's catalog.
Recording in Bob Marley's own Tuff Gong studio, the late icon's spirit definitely infuses Alexander's imaginative arrangements. The instrumental reinterpretations of such well-known songs as "Africa Unite" and "Crazy Baldheads," while respectful of the original recordings, are heard with a fresh ear by the pianist.
Particularly effective are an exploratory "No More Trouble," a meditative take of "Babylon System" that has a strong Nyabinghi influence, and "Forever Lovin' Jah," which begins and ends with the basic trio of Alexander, acoustic bassist Hassan Shakur and drummer Herlin Riley, and expands to include a soulful Wailers-like sound of electric guitar and bass, along with percussion.
The album is filled with other guests. Trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis makes for an especially adept countervoice to Alexander. His is a welcome presence on "Chant Down Babylon," an engaging version that astutely melds roots reggae with an Afro-Caribbean lilt, and the playful ska shuffle of "Simmer Down."
Veteran reggae saxophonist Dean Fraser guests on a sophisticated strut through "Trench Town."
There are several vocal takes of Marley's classic songs. The title track includes guitarist Wayne Armond and Wendel Ferraro (a k a Junior Jazz) trading vocals and, in the same spirit, Luciano joins a group of singers that includes Alexander on the well-known cry of solidarity among Third World peoples, "War."
The album winds down a raw, rootsy note with a live-in-studio take of the beloved "Three Little Birds" that has Shakur and Alexander (blowing on the melodica) joining the Rod Dennis Mento Band, made up of banjo, rhythm guitar and rumba box.
Released on the stalwart independent jazz label Telarc, "Concrete Jungle" is worth the purchase.