Monty Alexander has been one of the most popular pianists in jazz for over 50 years. Early on, his prodigious technique and wide-ranging style garnered comparisons with the great Oscar Peterson. But there has always been another side to Alexander’s playing. Usually jazz grabs the upper hand, but on occasion he digs deep into his Jamaican roots, as he did on his MPS album Rass. On Cobilimbo, Monty once again partners with Ernst Ranglin, one of the fathers of ska and guitarist with the likes of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. Charles Campbell is on conga, and Vincent Taylor plays his own hand-crafted double-tenor steel drums, creating a surprising sound symbiosis with the piano. Bassist Andy Simpkins worked with Sarah Vaughan and George Shearing, and after his ten-year stint with the Ahmad Jamal trio, Frank Grant counts as a pianist’s drummer. Out of Many People, One combines pop-jazz with a reggae backbeat. Muko is pure Carribean funk with a soulful leadoff bass solo and a smoking piano improv. On reggae legend Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross, Ranglin plays the melody with poignancy before slipping into a jazzy medium tempo solo. Alexander’s Cobilimbo jumps out as a full-blown calypso, but in typical Alexander style, it traverses jazz and blues paths, with outstanding solos by Ranglin and Alexander. The joyful Ripe Banana stays in calypso mode, whereas Jammin’ comes closest to straight-ahead jazz, with masterful solos by Ranglin and Alexander. Tropical Breeze drifts leisurely by, with Alexander’s blistering solo raising the temperature. Caribea ends the album in an infectiously upbeat samba, with dancing piano and guitar solos. A thoroughly enjoyable album that captures the joyous sensuality of the Caribbean.                                                                        

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