"FULL STEAM AHEAD" finds pianist Monty Alexander in a buoyant mood, exploring territory that includes a few jazz standards, contrasting ballads by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Rodgers and Hammerstein, and, believe it or not, the mid-'60s Rolling Stones hit "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."
While the last song, built around a handful of basic chords, hardly seems a worthy vehicle for a jazz trio that features bassist Ray Brown and drummer Frank Gant, Alexander fleshes out the song's skeletal progression with chunky substitute chords and scurrying improvisations so that the new arrangement more resembles a two-fisted blues by Mose Allison than the original recording.
Still, compared with the rest of the album, "Satisfaction" ranks as little more than a curiosity. The best moments come when the trio gets reacquainted with Miles Dvis' "Freddy Freeloader," which neatly combines Alexander's bluesy forays with Brown's big, surging tone; and "Ray's Idea," a jaunty reminder of Brown's mid-'40s stint with the Dizzie Gillespie Big Band. Randy Weston's jubilant "High Fly" and Jobim's rhythmically enticing "Once I Loved" offer further evidence of the trio's cohesiveness. -- Mike Joyce.
THE MONTY ALEXANDER TRIO -- "Full Steam Ahead" (Concord Jazz-275); appearing Friday through Sunday at Blues Alley.