July 2000

Monty Alexander - Monty Meets Sly and Robbie
Telarc CD-83494
Released: 2000

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]Monty Meets Sly And Robbie could just as easily have been titled Jamaica Meets 52nd Street. This is a disc headed by respected Jamaican-born jazz pianist Monty Alexander, who joins forces with the island’s funkiest rhythm section. The group is made up of Sly Dunbar on drums (and ridim) and Robbie Shakespeare on bass. The group adds the full flavor of Jamaica to jazz. Did I say adds? Monty Meets Sly And Robbie doesn’t just add, it thoroughly fuses the two musical styles with surprising results.

However, I should warn you that this is really not a Telarc recording! Say what? I only mean that it contains none of the usual Telarc information about mikes, cables and equipment used in the recording process. I also didn’t recognize many of the names of those who did the recording, short of executive producer Robert Woods and recording engineer Robert Friedrich. Furthermore, I was somewhat surprised by the use of both electric instruments and some overdubbing from this mostly purest recording company. Yet fear not, as soon as you listen to this album, the sound quality will reveal that it is every bit a Telarc product.

To describe this album in two terms or less, I’d say "fun and deep bass." Let me start with the fun part, as that is what most of us (I hope) listen to music for. This album is to jazz (or reggae) what PDQ Bach is to classical -- quality, fun (there’s that word again) music. If Monty, Sly and Robbie doesn’t have you up off your couch bopping round the room, or at least tappin' those toes, you better think seriously about selling off all those records and discs and taking up another hobby (like internal casket inspecting, cause your dead!).

Monty, as he states in the informative liner notes, chose music from the '60s as the foundation for this album. Music is by, or associated with, the likes of Herbie Hancock ("Chameleon"), Cannonball Adderley ("Mercy, Mercy, Mercy"), Lee Morgan ("Sidewinder"), Art Blakey ("Moanin'"), Ramsey Lewis ("In the Crowd") and others. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be impressed with how Monty, Sly and Robbie are able to meld jazz and reggae together with tunes like these. It’s a hoot to hear Sly and Robbie laying down a very Jamaican beat while Monty’s piano improvises over it. Ya mon, what fun!

This disc also reminded me of the Sheffield Labs record James Newton Howard And Friends. There are some startling similarities. It is those similarities that led me to my other descriptive choice -- very deep, full, punchy, tight bass. This is the disc you’ll want to have handy when you need to loosen up those new speakers. This recording will be a litmus test for your system’s low-frequency capabilities, both for depth as well as clarity.

As far as sound quality goes, Monty Meets Sly And Robbie is what you would expect from a Telarc recording. Monty’s piano is left of center, with Robbie’s bass center rear and Sly’s drum kit to the right. The bass purrs nicely, the drums have the requisite punch and the piano, while slightly opaque, is still fairly clear, with good heft. However, you’re not going to be obsessing over the sound quality of this disc for too long because you’ll be too busy calling up all your audio buds to par-tay. Finally, an audiophile dance album.

One final note. The press release that I received with this disc states that this is a DSD recording; however, nowhere, either on the cover or in the booklet, does it say anything about DSD, so my guess is that the press release is wrong. Not a big deal, but I thought you ought to know. After all is said and done, I can sum this album up in one word (and I’ll bet, if you’ve gotten this far, that you already know what that word is): F-U-N. What else is there to say except "recommended"?