Monty Alexander & Friends: Frank Sinatra at 100 With Kurt Elling, Jazz at Lincoln Center

At 17 years old, a serendipitous encounter with Frank Sinatra and his long-time pal Jilly Rizzo changed the trajectory of Jamaican-born pianist Monty Alexander's career forever: Alexander would soon become the house pianist for the famed Jilly's club in New York City and develop a unique relationship with its most famous patron.Monty Alexander
Sinatra's centennial elicits fond memories of Alexander's time spent at the intimate hangout, and with the help of GRAMMY® Award-winning and DownBeat Critics Poll-dominating singer Kurt Elling, he will share stories and anecdotes from a treasured and rare perspective. A masterful pianist, Alexander's career spans five decades and includes collaborations with some of the most important figures in jazz, like Milt Jackson, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as an illustrious recording career as a leader.

International touring artist Elling, referred to by The Guardian as “a kind of Sinatra with superpowers,” will provide his vocal interpretation of the classic tunes, to which he is no stranger.

On these evenings' celebration of Frank Sinatra’s centennial, Kurt Elling and Monty Alexander will focus on the milieu at Jilly’s Saloon, at 256 W. 52nd Street, a magnet for tough guys and entertainers that often served as Sinatra’s late night office when he found himself in New York City during the 1960s. Perhaps more successfully than any 21st century jazz singer, Elling, 48, embodies the aesthetic principles by which Sinatra operated. Alexander, now 71 and one of the mightiest swingers in jazz, was frequently employed as house pianist at Jilly’s between 1963 and 1968, a tenure he acknowledged on the superb 1997 trio recording Echoes of Jilly’s.

When introducing the “saloon song section” of his concerts, Sinatra liked to describe the genre as “songs of unrequited love and sadness,” but the mood at Jilly's was anything but morose when he held court at his table at the back of the room. “The joint would be buzzing, and I'd be burning, doing what I have to do,” Alexander recalled. In addition to such high Q Score entertainers as Johnny Carson, Alan King, Jack Carter, and Jack E. Leonard, the patrons included, by Alexander’s recollection, Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Roy Haynes, Tony Williams, and Miles Davis.

Joining Alexander and Elling in these concerts will be bassist Hassan Shakur, guitarist Frank Vignola, hand drummer Robert Thomas Jr., and drummer Dennis Mackrel.

This early, nurturing period in which the young pianist and an iconic hero spontaneously mused on saloon songs up into the wee hours of the night is a Valentine’s weekend treat sure to satisfy both nostalgic and contemporary tastes. Sinatra songs to be featured include “Young at Heart,” “I've Got You Under My Skin,” “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” “Luck, Be a Lady Tonight,” “The Summer Wind,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” and other favorites.

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February 12-13, 2016, Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, 60th & Broadway, New York, NY
Live Streamed on the Web at livestream.com/jazz
Pre-concert talk at 7:00 pm each night