MONTY MAXWELL, guitarist, composer, steel pan arranger, and jazz and blues musician was born in the southern town of Vieux Fort, St. Lucia. He grew up next to a pan yard, so from an early age he was constantly suffused in music and musicianship. He credits the steel band as his initiation into the world of music and George "Shine" Thomas, the band leader of his next door steel band, as his first musical role model. However, from the time Monty first picked up the guitar at the age of sixteen and taught himself to play, the guitar has remained his instrument of choice. Today Monty is regarded as one of the best guitarists the island has produced.
The formative years of Monty’s musical career was spent playing reggae, calypso, soca, zouk, R&B, and other forms of popular music, but as he matured he started to embrace jazz and blues and today he is regarded, above all else, as a jazz and blues musician, and is considered among the island’s elite group of jazz musicians. His early jazz and blues influences included Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Joe Pass, B.B. King, Eric Gale, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Christian, Grant Greene, Larry Carlton, and Lee Ritenour, all of whom he first heard from listening to a jazz program on Radio St. Lucia, then the island’s principal radio station.
Coming at a mature stage of Monty’s musical career, “Shine” can be viewed as the culmination of the artist’s musical strivings. It is truly an embodiment of his personality and experiences; in it the artist never strays far from his roots. The musicians who collaborated with him on the project are mostly from his hometown and with whom he grew up playing and discovering music together. The album is dedicated to his grandmother, Josephine Soomer, and to George “Shine” Thomas, two of his earliest musical influences. His grandmother who was of East Indian heritage was always singing traditional Indian and St. Lucian folk songs. Madam Lan Gros, the third track on the album, was one of the folk songs she sang that stuck with Monty to this day. So growing up the artist was faced with a situation where inside the home he was awashed with his grandmothers singing, and outside he was inundated with the pan music of his next door neighbor, George “Shine” Thomas.
Indeed, the album is nothing less than a mapping of Monty’s musical influences and the fusing of Caribbean rhythms and St. Lucian folk with jazz and blues. It features blues (Derek’s Blues, Traffic Jam Blues), smooth contemporary jazz (Don’t Stop This Grove, Morning Shadows), reggae with a jazz treatment (Wake Up And Live), Calypso-Jazz (Blue Soap, Little Suede Shoes, and “Shine”), and a jazz treatment of St. Lucian folk with a beguine rhythm (Madam Lan Gros). The title track is a tribute to St. Lucian pan pioneer, George “Shine” Thomas, and as elsewhere in the album pan features prominently in the song. However, above all, “Shine” is a manifestation of a virtuoso and versatile guitarist. It exhibits traces of George Benson, West Montgomery, Lee Ritenour, Grant Green, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, etc., yet Monty’s own blues-flavored style comes through in the guitar-blues coloring of many of the tracks.
Prepared by Dr. Anderson Reynolds