Jazz Chuck Workman Monty Alexander will bring his trio to the Jazz Kitchen Friday, May 12. Shows at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. It's hard to define Monty Alexander’s music. He can play bebop, swing hard with the best of his peers and perform eloquently in a symphonic setting. Hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, his reggae roots are profound in his musical makeup. With over 60 albums to his name and four decades on the jazz scene, Alexander’s performing and recording career reads like a who’s who, and includes the likes of Milt Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Ray Brown, Natalie Cole and Frank Sinatra. Monty Alexander returns with his trio to the Jazz Kitchen after a two-year absence on Friday, May 12 for two shows at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. I had a fun and freewheeling conversation with him by phone for this interview from his home in New York. NUVO: You have gone through four decades of jazz. What is your feeling about jazz today and its direction? Alexander: I don’t know what I feel. When you saw Duke Ellington live and you were there when Joe Williams was with Basie and you saw Errol Garner it was kind of a thrill. You can only applaud the fact they are trying to keep it alive today. However, I can’t say I have been around a lot of what I have seen today. It reminds me of that kind of instinct, it’s kind of a handed down thing. In every generation there are geniuses, there are people who are going to be trend setters and change the whole dynamic. NUVO: Do you think street musicians can make it in jazz today as they did in the past, or have the music schools taken over developing the future jazz artists? Alexander: The music schools — and I say bless their hearts because they are doing the best thing they can do. The truth is all that head knowledge will unfortunately get more attention than the guy who is coming from the natural order of things. Like me, I feel inhibited when I go around some of those wonderful school people who know more than I ever dreamed of knowing. NUVO: How can an academic student of jazz who’s had all of the classical training of textbooks and theory get up and play some very serious blues with soul and tell the story if they haven’t lived it? Alexander: Here’s hoping they have had a few knocks along the way and been able to transmit that into a musical story. That is a statement, you are telling your story through a musical instrument, you are not reciting a scale. I don’t want to sound like I am not appreciating the information being continued along for the next generations. The spirit and heart of this music will prevail but there are going to be those rare exceptions like “Bird” or “Trane” that are going to stick out. The whole thing is so saturated with information now. Ever since chips came along, living in that digital computer, the stuff got strange. NUVO: Do you think technology has taken the soul out of jazz, because musicians are playing thousands of miles away and patching in their parts, giving no face-to-face musical interaction? Alexander: Absolutely, it has robbed us of the human connection. The point being you know that when you send an e-mail to somebody you are not communicating with them on a human heart basis like when you look at one another on the bandstand playing that stuff. Now it has taken another form. People make music together through the telephone line. The lines of communication will be strong when Monty Alexander takes over the Jazz Kitchen bandstand supported by Hasson Shakur on bass and George Fludas on drums. Alexander’s latest CD is Concrete Jungle on the Telarc label. This is a tribute to Bob Marley’s music that combines acoustic jazz with reggae rhythms. Review: Bill Charlap Trio I have listened to many of pianist Bill Charlap’s Trio recordings. Last Wednesday, May 3, the Ensemble Music Society threw a curve ball to close its 2005-2006 series at the Indiana History Center. In front of a full house, with many piano players on hand, Bill Charlap threw his own blazing musical strike. It was a far different Charlap than his recordings. He displayed remarkable technique as he went through the evening, paying tribute to his passion for the great American composers. Supported by his rhythm mates of a decade, the Washingtons (no relation to each other), Peter on bass and Kenny drums, displayed a tight-knit introspection toward every whim and mood of Charlap’s pianistic forays. Opening with John Williams’ “Make Me Rainbows,” Charlap carefully built clusters of notes over the steady pattern of Kenny Washington’s brushes while Peter Washington’s bass laid down a booming counter rhythm to add to the tension for Charlap to build on and release. Throughout the evening, Charlap displayed prodigious classical technique that sometimes overwhelmed his jazz overtones. Some of the evening’s most engrossing moments came on George Shearing’s composition for Wes Montgomery, “Enchanted,” with Charlap utilizing Shearing’s lock hands technique. The only unaccompanied solo of the evening was a rare performance of Vernon Duke and Yip Harburg’s tune “A Penny For Your Thoughts.” Peter Washington’s bass role matched that of Charlap’s virtuosity throughout with consistently inventive melodic solos and impeccable time keeping. Kenny Washington’s drumming was a brilliant example of taste, sensitivity and dynamics, especially in his solos. The Bill Charlap Trio has to rate as one of the most musically cohesive and satisfying examples of jazz today. A movie role for Botti? Last Saturday evening on my radio show on WICR 88.7, Chris Botti was my in-studio guest. When I asked him if there was any chance of appearing on the big screen, he replied that he had been approached about filming the life story of one of his jazz heroes, Chet Baker. Botti neither confirmed nor denied that he would accept such a role. Stay tuned on this one. Personally, I feel he is a natural fit for the part. Botti’s horn definitely fits the Baker image, but I have never heard Botti sing. Jazz data • Jammin’ at the ’Jorg returns, opening the season with Cathy Morris & Collage Thursday, May 11 at the Eiteljorg Museum’s Sky City Café from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Admission is $5 for members and $8 for nonmembers. The fee includes snacks from the bar. • The Buselli Wallarab Jazz Orchestra wraps up its 2005-2006 concert season at the Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St., Sunday, May 14 in a presentation titled “The Beat of Brazil” featuring the bossa nova songs of Brazil’s top composers. Concert times are 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Matinee tickets are $15, student/senior $10; 7 p.m. $20, student/senior $15. • The Stars at Night will perform jazz standards in a free concert at the Artsgarden Tuesday, May 16 at 12:15 p.m. • Lutz Steakhouse, 3100 Westfield Road, Noblesville: Wednesday, Suzanne Paynard; Thursday, Dave Lowe; music 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Lonnie Lester; Saturday, Dave Lowe; music 7 to 11 p.m.