Monty Alexander
Stir it up--the music of Bob Marley
Telarc Jazz (

Jamaican-born pianist Monty Alexander would probably be a logical choice to make a CD of piano-led versions of Bob Marley songs, and in his hands it works. Most of the songs are done fairly straight, with the piano stating the melody over a supple rhythm section, soloing, and then re-stating the melody. The solos stay inside for the most part, as does the rhythm section--this is more of an instrumental reggae album than a jazz one. The use of the piano as a lead voice and lack of a vocalist almost makes this sound like "reggae-lite" at times, but there are a few moments where Alexander and the rhythm section lift off to a higher level. Tunes like "Jammin'" and "Could you be loved" work especially well in fusing the jazz and reggae elements, making some of the other selections seem a bit pedestrian by comparison.

Trombonist Steve Turre guests on two tunes, adding some conch shell as well as trombone on "I Shot the Sheriff". And "No Woman No Cry" gets a rubato introduction that brings out some gospel strains in Alexander's playing. The tune "Could you be loved" appears twice, but the remix version adds little to the original version except length. This CD could fall through the cracks due to its hybrid nature--not jazz enough for some, not reggae enough for others. But there's enough substance here to satisfy both camps, and these graceful versions of what are basically simple songs grow on you. - Joe Grossman