by Scott YanowMonty Alexander long ago combined together the influence of Oscar Peterson with the soul of Gene Harris and Nat King Cole to form his own appealing and personable style. Long a bit underrated (due to the shadow of Peterson), Alexander has recorded more than a score of excellent albums. Monty Alexander began piano lessons when he was six and he played professionally in Jamaican clubs while still a teenager; his band, Monty and the Cyclones, was quite popular locally during 1958-1960. He first played in the U.S. when he appeared in Las Vegas with Art Mooneys Orchestra. Soon he was accompanying a variety of top singers, formed a friendship with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and began gigging with bassist Ray Brown. With the recording of a pair of Pacific Jazz albums in 1965, an RCA date in 1967, and a Verve session in 1969, Alexander began to gain a strong reputation. His series of exciting albums for MPS during 1971-1977 found him in prime form, and his recordings in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s found him building on his original style. Alexander, who often pays tribute to his Jamaican heritage, performs regularly with his own trio and swings hard in his own voice.