Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander continues a two-night stop at the Jazz Forum - Tarrytown, NY, which began last night. last December, Alexander made a celebrated return home with a special benefit concert in Kingston (his first there in a decade).
Kingston-born Alexander has been thrilling audiences for five decades, including thirteen years of headline performances at the Montreux International Jazz Festival. Fifty-five years after he moved to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica, his home town, pianist Monty Alexander is an American classic, touring the world relentlessly with various projects, delighting a global audience drawn to his vibrant personality and soulful message.
His spirited conception is one informed by the timeless verities: endless melody-making, effervescent grooves, sophisticated voicings, a romantic spirit, and a consistent predisposition, as Alexander accurately states, “to build up the heat and kick up a storm.” In the course of any given performance,
Alexander applies those aesthetics to repertoire spanning a broad range of jazz and Jamaican musical expression—the American songbook and the blues, gospel and bebop, calypso and reggae. Like his “eternal inspiration,” Erroll Garner, Alexander—cited as the fifth greatest jazz pianist ever in The Fifty Greatest Jazz Piano Players of All Time (Hal Leonard Publishing) and mentioned in Robert Doerschuk’s 88: The Giants of Jazz Piano—gives the hardcore-jazz-obsessed much to dig into while also communicating the message to the squarest “civilian.”
PORT ANTONIO, Jamaica — His machete blade a blur, Tevin Steele whacks the top off a fresh green coconut. Deftly knifing a window through the tender pith, he inserts a straw and hands the fruit across the counter at Dinga-Fling, his roadside stall outside this drowsy coastal town. Selling coconuts is his livelihood, and Mr. Steele, 21, says it is a good one, though neither as promising, lucrative or downright implausible as his other.
It was just over a year ago that Mr. Steele was scouted at his stall by a modeling agent, who detected in his whippet frame and chiseled cheeks the same potential that soon led him to sign an exclusive contract to walk in a fall 2017 runway show for Saint Laurent.
Roughly 5,000 miles, and a universe, lie between Port Antonio and Paris.
“I never knew about modeling, I never thought about modeling or talked about it when they brought it to me that I have a nice style to be a model,” said Mr. Steele, who on a busy day during high season here might earn 15,000 Jamaican dollars (or $115) selling coconuts. “I always wanted to go on a plane and stuff. When they called me for Saint Laurent, my life just changed.”
As it happens, “changing lives and expanding horizons” is both the mission and the vaguely homiletic slogan of Saint International, a small, independent modeling agency in Kingston founded by Deiwght Peters close to two decades ago.
When he started in the business, Mr. Peters told a reporter on a visit to Jamaica, even the concept of ethnic diversity in modeling was a long way off. And the beauty standards of the multibillion-dollar fashion industry clung stubbornly to a “traditional ideal of thin, white and young,” as Jennifer Davidson, the editor in chief of the website The Fashion Spot, said.