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Monty Alexander celebrates his 80th birthday at Jazz Alley

The nostalgia was thick in the air at Seattle’s Jazz Alley as pianist Monty Alexander celebrated his 80th birthday on a stage he’s played hundreds of times. Alexander spent part of the visit reconnecting with an old friend, John Dimitriou, the owner of Jazz Alley since its opening in 1980.

Alexander's birthday, June 6, also marked the 80th anniversary of D-Day, when allied forces landed in northern France in 1944 and changed the direction of World War II. It's impossible to forget when you're born on such a famous date.

“You’re reminded your whole life," Alexander said. "And when your parents name you after the British General (Field Marshal "Monty" Bernard Law Montgomery) you’re aware of it.”

His new album D-Day includes a couple songs from the era and several original songs by the prolific pianist. It also arrives with moving message, no matter the decade.

"It’s about saying, ‘War is not the answer’ and we need to fight for peace. As musicians, that’s what we do. We want to see people come together,” Alexander explained.

Alexander and Dimitriou first came together in the 1970s when the latter left his hometown of Seattle and was running Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. It's now the longest running supper club in the nation.

Three people talk inside a music venue.
Parker Miles Blohm
KNKX's Abe Beeson spoke with Monty Alexander at Jazz Alley about his life, latest album and his longtime friendship with Jazz Alley owner John Dimitriou.

“He had the desire to be a drummer,” Alexander recalled.

“I was a bad drummer – it was the best thing that happened to me!” Dimitrou exclaimed.

Alexander pointed out the lasting impact of Dimitriou’s time in the other Washington.

“I was there when John came and spruced up the place, that was the beginning of Blues Alley stepping up," he said. "And he met his wife to be!”

Dimitriou's now been married to his sweetheart Carla for 49 years. He called Alexander a real jazz musician because “he makes people feel good about his playing and that’s extraordinary, and there are few people who do that.”

In the end, the point for Alexander and Dimitriou is to bring people together. The pianist directed the club owner to a portrait of Louis Armstrong that hangs on the wall at Jazz Alley as a poignant example of what they’re both trying to do.

“Maybe John doesn’t realize how important it is,” Alexander said. “To see Louis Armstrong over there looking at you… that was my hero. I saw him in Kingston, Jamaica in 1956. It was like a church meeting! There’s something about music. I don’t just hear it, I feel it. I smell it. It’s the joy of life. It’s fun!”

You’re sure to hear and feel (and maybe smell?) the fun Monty Alexander shared with bassist Luke Sellick, drummer Jason Brown and John Dimitriou on stage at Jazz Alley.


  • Monty Alexander - piano
  • Luke Sellick - bass
  • Jason Brown - drums


  1. Think Twice
  2. Look Up
  3. River of Peace
Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.
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