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Monty Alexander | Wareika Hill Rastamonk Vibrations

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Jazz: Jazz Fusion Reggae: Roots Reggae Moods: Featuring Piano
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Wareika Hill Rastamonk Vibrations

by Monty Alexander

A mind-boggling collective of classic Monk songs infused with a sensibility that melds the worlds of Jazz, Ska and Reggae into a unique melting pot of Monk with a twist.
Genre: Jazz: Jazz Fusion
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Wareika
0:18 album only
2. Misterioso
6:48 album only
3. Nutty
6:32 album only
4. Bye-Ya
5:55 album only
5. San Francisco Holiday (Worry Later)
6:19 album only
6. Rhythm-a-Ning
5:36 album only
7. Brilliant Corners
4:49 album only
8. Well You Needn't
5:21 album only
9. Bemsha Swing
6:54 album only
10. Green Chimneys
6:20 album only
11. Monk's Dream
6:36 album only
12. Abide with Me
4:22 album only
13. Well You Needn't (Live at the Paris Philarmonie)
4:39 album only
14. Wareika Goodbye
0:22 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
WAREIKA HILL - RastaMonk Vibrations

I must have been about 8 years old when I first observed the men of the Rastafarian faith. I saw them going up Wareika hill, behind my house in the Mountain View area of Kingston. I heard their drum rhythms from a distance at night as they went up the hill to worship and praise--and I smelled their ganja and firewood burning. These were my first encounters and impressions, but a second and closer encounter with Rastafarians took place a few years later, when I was about 14 years old. That was the time when I would regularly sneak out of school and take the bus to Federal Recording Studios to play the piano rhythms with the musicians accompanying the many singers (Keith and Enid, Higgs and Wilson, The Blues Busters, Laurel Aitken, and others) for the record producers of the time, including “Coxsone” Dodd, “Duke” Reid and Chris Blackwell. Some of these studio musicians -- such as trumpeter Jackie Willacy -- had embraced the Rastafarian faith and expressed Rastafarian consciousness. I remember that during one of these recording sessions Jackie spoke about an American Jazz musician named Thelonious Monk, and expressed with much wonderment how different Monk was; he said: “de man different, im difrent”.

However, it was in the USA a few years later, in 1961, that I picked up a record of Thelonious Monk's for the first time and in 1963 I saw Thelonious Monk play with his group at the Five Spot café in New York City. I was taken with his unique style of piano and the feeling in the rhythm when he played. He was quite different from all the other musicians that I had seen. Jackie was right; Monk was truly different in every way. The way he played music, the way he played the piano, the way he led his band, the way he walked down the street. I would see him wearing a heavy wool coat and hat on a warm summer day, wiping the sweat off his face with a handkerchief. His group at the time included Charlie Rouse on Saxophone, Frankie Dunlap on drums and Butch Warren on bass. I remember seeing him get up from the piano bench and dance to the rhythm on the band stand, making his own unique movements. He would play his facile runs down the piano keyboard and it felt to me like he was playing them upwards, it felt somehow like he was playing back to front. His sense of rhythm was his own, like no one else’s. Like a Rastafarian in Jamaica, he was different.

Maybe it was just my childhood memories connecting the two, but I was left with a deep impression that the world of Monk and Rasta were one spirit. The way Rasta men would walk, talk and express themselves was a world within itself and so it was with Monk. I later learned that after he had moved to NYC from his birth place of Rocky Mount, North Carolina; that he lived in the area of San Juan Hill (now the area of Lincoln Center)—an area populated by West Indians, mostly from the English speaking islands. I heard Monk compositions and the melodies had a rhythm that left me thinking that Monk was influenced by the island rhythms he was hearing frequently from his neighbors. I believe he was well influenced by people from Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica…In fact, he was one of many great Jazz men in the 40’s and 50’s influenced by West Indians. Among the many musicians of West Indian heritage were Randy Weston, Wynton Kelly, Oscar Peterson, Roy Haynes, Blue Mitchel, “Tricky” Sam Nanton, Dizzy Reece and several others (*).

I always thought that Monk’s compositions naturally lent themselves to West Indian and Rastafarian rhythms, perhaps accidentally or perhaps because as a child in Jamaica I had unconsciously merged and fused Rastafarians with Thelonious Monk.
In this collection there are two songs Monk played but did not write: "Abide with Me" and "Bensha Swing." "Abide with Me" is a beloved Christian hymn, one of the many hymns that comes from Monk’s church life but it also happens to be very close to my life as it was my mother’s most beloved hymn and I suspect a Thelonious family favorite as well. The Rastafarians had adapted many of the Christian hymns for their praise and worship gatherings and this song adapted itself especially well to nyabinghi rhythms.

"Bemsha Swing" was written by Thelonious Monk’s friend, drummer Denzil Best, another West Indian with Barbadian roots. This should have been spelled Bimsha, which is how Barbadians refer to themselves. Denzil Best, Monk’s colleague and friend, composed this song. Sonny Rollins once told me about the time he and Monk and Denzil went to Madison Square Garden together to see Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Carmen Basilio fight (Basilio won that night). Bemsha is also a slang term to indicate someone/something from Barbados. You see? Bemsha Swing: Barbados and swing…the connection with Monk and Jazz and Island rhythms was there all along…

One last note: I had a memorable personal encounter with Monk in the mid 60’s when we shared an elevator ride. I had just visited a friend who happened to live on the same floor down the hall from him. I got on the elevator and pressed the lobby button and noticed Monk stepped in-it was just Monk and I. He looked at me and greeted me with something that sounded more like a grunt and not knowing what to respond, I grunted back. He then stood in front of the elevator buttons and pressed them while saying: “2 and 3 is 5”. We thereupon stopped at the 5th, the 3rd and the 2nd floor before we finally got to the ground floor. As I walked out in the lobby Monk remained in the elevator and as I walked away I heard: “3 and 4 is 7” Monk was… different.

Thank you to my brethren for going along with my vision and introducing a great Jazz artist to the musical influences of his youth: J.J., Jason, Obed, Andy, Karl, Leon, Courtney, Earl, and Junior for organizing the nyabinghi drummers.
Thank you to all the incredible musicians and friends who agreed to participate on this very special musical journey: Ron Blake, Wayne Escoffery and Andrae Murchison.
Very special thank you to the outstanding artists Joe Lovano and John Scofield and to their management, Scott Southard and Susan Scofield for making their participation possible.
Thank you Andy Taub and his team and for going the extra mile with my many requests.
Thank you, Alan Silverman for your masterful mastering.
Thank you, Hollis King for being there from the very beginning with your artful touches and positive support, from Yard to Trini.
Very special thanks to Steve Jordan for the support.
Very special and eternal thanks to Caterina Zapponi, for keeping all of this...and more, together.

This record is dedicated to the memory of Melbourne “Bob” Cranshaw who was a big brother to me. Maximum honor and respect to Theodore “Sonny” Rollins, my friend and fellow West Indian.

Monty Alexander

(*) The following Jazz musicians were all of West Indian heritage—this is the community with which Thelonious vibrated:
Herbie Nichols
Russel Procope
Matthew Gee
Blue Mitchell
Fats Navarro
“Tricky” Sam Nanton
Carmen McRae
Arthur Taylor
Elmo Hope
Cecil Payne
Mickey Roker
Juan Tizol
Mal Waldron
Kenny Drew
Al Harewood
Arthur Edgehill
Connie Kay
Bruno Carr
Leonard Gaskin
and there are more…

Monty Alexander - piano
J.J. Shakur - acoustic bass
Jason Brown, Obed Calvaire - drums
Andy Bassford - guitar
Karl Wright - drums/percussion
Leon Duncan, Courtney Panton - electric bass
Junior Wedderburn, Abashani Wedderburn, Bongo Billy - Nyabinghi drums
Earl Appleton - electric keyboards
Ron Blake, Wayne Escoffery - tenor sax
Andrae Murchison - trombone
Joe Lovano - tenor sax solo on Green Chimneys
John Scofield - guitar solo on Bye-a

Producers: Monty Alexander, Caterina Zapponi
Executive Producer: Monty Alexander LLC
Recording Engineer: Andy Taub
Mixing Engineers: Andy Taub and Karl Wright
Mastering Engineer: Alan Silverman, Arf! Mastering NYC
Photographer: Hollis King
Art Direction, Design: Hollis King
Cover Art: Rudy Gutierrez
Recorded at: Brooklyn Recording, NY

1. Wareika – 00:18
2. Misterioso – 06:49
3. Nutty – 06:32
4. Bye-Ya – 05:56
5. San Francisco Holiday a.k.a. Worry Later – 06:20
6. Rhythm A Ning – 05:36
7. Brilliant Corners – 04:50
8. Well You Needn’t – 05:21
9. Bemsha Swing – 06:55
10. Green Chimneys – 06:20
11. Monk’s Dream– 06:37
12. Abide with Me – 04:23
13. Well You Needn’t - LIVE at the Paris Philarmonie –04:40
14. Wareika Good Bye – 00:24

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11: Thelonious Monk (Ultra International Music Publishing/BMI)
8: Thelonious Monk (Regent Music Corp/BMI)
9: Denzil Best/Thelonious Monk (Second Floor Music/BMI)
All songs arranged by Monty Alexander (Monass Music/BMI)



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