Jeremy Monteiro has recorded around twenty albums in two decades, yet surprisingly this is the pianist's first offering of entirely original compositions in fourteen years. They confirm, however, what anyone who has seen him in concert already knows: firstly, that he writes sensitive, well-crafted tunes, and secondly, that as a pianist he is at the top of the tree.
Ably supported by his regular trio members, Syracuse, New York drummer Shawn Kelley and Melbourne bassist Belinda Moody, and augmented by the muscular tones of sax legend Ernie Watts, Monteiro leads the way through a wonderfully rich and varied set. The first two tracks feature Greg Fishman, who plays a jaunty tenor on the striding "Jazzybelle's Shuffle and flute on the Latin "Samba Apassionata. The latter track is dedicated to the late Edmond Branson, Jr., a leading drummer on the Singapore scene.
The tempo remains upbeat on "The Bubala Dance, where Watts adds his fireworks to the proceedings. This is the first of two songs co-written by Monteiro and Watts, who first collaborated almost twenty years ago, and the affinity between them is apparent. The other Monteiro/Watts number, "Remember, is a soulful, meditative piece reminiscent of Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes. Belinda Moody, an original voice, shines through on a short yet tasteful bass solo.
One of the highlights is "Inner Voice, in which both Monteiro and Ernie Watts solo elegantly and powerfully. It is a fine study in the art of tension and release. The title track, "Homecoming, highlights the talents of drummer Shawn Kelley and soprano player Ernie Watts. This jubilant calypso is very much in the mould of Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas and no less enjoyable.
Monteiro succeeds in mixing up the pace and mood of the songs, and one of his strengths as a leader lies in the space he allows his partners. On "Lorna's Kitchen," co-written by bassist Eldee Young, each member of the trio takes his turn in the spotlight, racing along together at a rattling pace. The album closes with Monteiro and Moody's glorious, understated "Blues For Ray, dedicated to the late Ray Charles. The playing on this blues piece is almost respectful, with Monteiro and Moody soloing in beautifully restrained manner over Ron Feuer's Hammond C3 Organ. A burst of gospel-style piano at the end concludes a fine tribute to the great man.
Some may have thought that when Claude Nobbs invited Jeremy Monteiro to play Montreux in 1988, the Singaporean pianist had had his day in the sun. On the evidence of this delightful album, maybe his day in the sun is yet to come.
Personnel: Jeremy Monteiro: piano; Belinda Moody: bass; Shawn Kelley:drums; Ernie Watts:tenor
saxophone (3,5,7), soprano saxophone (6); Greg Fishman:tenor saxophone (1), flute (2);
Mohamed Noor: Latin percussion (2,6); Ron Feuer:Hammond C3 organ (9).