September 2001

Monty Alexander - Goin' Yard
Telarc CD-83527
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

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

[Reviewed on CD]It’s been said that you can’t go home again. In the case of Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander, that truism proves to be only partially correct -- although Alexander has followed his muse away from his homeland, he has never completely severed his ties to his native island's music.

In his last two albums Stir It Up -- The Music Of Bob Marley and Monty Meets Sly And Robbie (both on Telarc), Alexander attempted to tie two diverse musical styles (jazz and reggae) together in a tighter bond. That he has been even partially successful in these endeavors is a tribute to both his talent and musicianship. On Goin’ Yard, Alexander makes his third attempt to go home again, this time with jazz more in the forefront.

Goin’ Yard is a live album, recorded at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh. As with many live recordings, the sound isn't quite right. Because of the difficulties involved in live recording, Telarc didn’t use the DSD process that has become the norm in their studio efforts and it shows (sounds?). Although the electric bass lumbers along nicely, as one would expect on an album incorporating reggae as much as this one does, it’s a bit indistinct. The same can be said for the other instruments here as well. There is, however, good separation between the instruments, and the soundstage is both wide and somewhat deep. It’s clear that all the musicians are having fun, and the audience is too. That goes a long way toward making this album likable.

But it’s the music that will make you glad you bought it. On Goin’ Yard, Alexander spends much more time playing the jazz he’s made his life’s work, rather than emphasizing the reggae sounds that have dominated his previous two efforts. If jazz and reggae can be said to co-exist, then Goin’ Yard is the place they come together. If Alexander has been attempting to meld these two styles, this is his masterpiece.

Maybe you can’t go home again. But, on certain occasions, you can pass through the old neighborhood and reminisce with the friends of your youth. Goin’ Yard gets Monty Alexander about as close as he’s likely to come to the music he grew up with. It’s not a great album by any means, but it is about as close a joining of these two types of music as you’re likely to hear.