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Jazz pianist Monty Alexander shares the inspiration at Blues Alley

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

Jazz pianist Monty Alexander perceives music as a healing force in life. No surprise then that he will bring that force to his live performances at Blues Alley this week.

"When I was a kid in [Kingston, Jamaica], I used to hear the folk bands play Calypso music and other songs made popular by people like Harry Belafonte," he said. "Every time I came into contact with the musicians playing that music, there was always joy. And that was my whole experience ... and what led me to be a musician in the first place."

With more than 70 albums as a leader to his credit, this jazz virtuoso, who has performed and recorded with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Quincy Jones, promises music that comes as an expression of his personal life that he says, "encompasses my great love of classic jazz as I know it from my hero, Duke Ellington." But Alexander peppers his performances, like seasoning in a stew, with the rich flavor of the folk and Calypso rhythms from his native Jamaica.

Audiences can expect to hear his rendition of standards like "Come Fly With Me" and "Body and Soul," along with his deeply moving songs like "Renewal" and "Hope." The intention is always clear -- to uplift spirits through music, and specifically through his seemingly effortless piano playing.

Onstage
Monty Alexander
» Where: Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW
» When: 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday
» Info: $40; 202-337-4141; bluesalley.com

Alexander's trio for his Blues Alley gigs features bass player Hassan Shakur and drummer Obed Calvaire.

A cool communicator in words as well as music, Alexander likes keeping his listeners entertained with information about a particular song's origins, how he came about performing it and what the piece means to him personally. Audiences, he maintains, come to hear the music, but they also want to know a little bit more about the person making it.

"When I was 10 years old in Kingston, I saw Louis Armstrong play, and he had a big effect on me," Alexander reminisced. "He was a unique trumpeter [and] a pace-setter. He made the world more familiar with him because he was bringing himself, not just his horn playing, but himself, to people."

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