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'Smile' With A Performance By Pianist Monty Alexander And Bassist Ray Brown

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On this episode of Jazz Night in America, we check out a concert from the archives that I just had to take a listen to. It features one of the greatest pianists ever, Monty Alexander, and my mentor and hero, the late bassist Ray Brown.

Ray, who held down the bass chair in the Oscar Peterson Trio for years, had a very close bond with many pianists after Oscar, including Gene Harris, André Previn, Hank Jones, Cedar Walton and Benny Green. But his connection with Monty was special. No matter what Ray's primary group was at a particular time, he always found time to play with Monty, who could make the piano feel like a one-man band. Couple that with Ray's titanium pulse, and you have a beat and a groove that could shake the Rock of Gibraltar to rubble.

Everything about this gig is so "quintessential" for the both of them: hardcore swingin'; plenty of blues and standards; Monty's reference both to his Jamaican roots ("Fungii Mama" and "No Woman, No Cry") and R&B ("Got To Go"); Ray's obvious happiness (listen to how he shouts during "Straighten Up and Fly Right"). When Ray felt good about a groove, he would almost yell out a karate chop type of "HYAH!" — and he does that a lot in this set.

Musicians:

Monty Alexander: piano; Ray Brown: bass.

Set List:

  • "Straighten Up and Fly Right" (Nat King Cole, Irving Mills)
  • "Fungii Mama" (Blue Mitchell)
  • "Got to Go" (Monty Alexander)
  • "Duke Ellington Medley" (Duke Ellington)
  • "Sweet Georgia Brown" (Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard, Kenneth Casey)
  • "No Woman, No Cry / I Shot the Sheriff" (Bob Marley)
  • "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" (Bob Hilliard, David Mann)
  • "Take the A Train" (Billy Strayhorn)
  • "Smile" (Charlie Chaplin, John Turner, Geoffrey Parsons)

Credits: 

Producer: Trevor Smith; Concert Recording: Murray Street Productions; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Executive Producers: Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

Six-time GRAMMY®-winning jazz bassist Christian McBride can be likened to a force of nature, fusing the fire and fury of a virtuoso with the depth and grounding of a seasoned journeyman. Powered by a relentless energy and a boundless love of swing, McBride’s path has described a continuous positive arc since his arrival on the scene. With a career now blazing into its third decade, the Philadelphia native has become one of the most requested, most recorded, and most respected figures in the music world today.
Trevor has been listening to WBGO for nearly half of his life. The station has remained near and dear from the first time he tuned in via a portable radio on a bus from his home city of Hartford to New York.