AAJ: Do you think albums of originals are the way forward for Jeremy Monteiro as a jazz musician?
JM: Consolidation and expansion. Consolidation echoing and reflecting the great standards and expansion with originals.
AAJ: What do you think about, for want of a better term the "new standards Herbie Hancock recording Simon and Garfunkel, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder,[The New Standard (Verve,1996)] and Brad Mehldau recording Lennon and McCartney, Radiohead, Nick Drake, and so on?
JM: Absolutely. You have to remember that all the standards that Bill Evans or Oscar Peterson or Cannonball Adderley, or any of those guys played were the pop songs of their day. I think not enough people do it. I haven't done it and I should, actually take the pop songs of today and do what Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans did with the pop songs of their time. I'm going to do that more.
AAJ: Can you tell us about the musicians on your new album?
JM: Well, the rhythm section is really my working group that I've been working with most the last six yearsShawn Kelley on drums and Belinda Moody on bass. After playing together for so long we have a real good understanding, a near telepathic communication between us. And also [saxophonist] Ernie Watts, I've been making music with him since 1987. Greg Fishman who I've been working with about eight years plays flute and saxophone and there's a percussionist from Singapore called Mohamed Noor.
AAJ: On the album there is a beautiful tribute to Ray Charles, "Blues for Ray. How much of an influence was he on you?
JM: I think the thing I go for a lot is the texture of someone's sound, whether it be an instrument or a voice, and the sound of Ray Charles' voice really got to me. It's so unique. I love his country stuff. He's one of the few people I can listen to doing country stuff. And he did Porgy and Bess (Rhino, 1976) with Cleo Laine. That recording isn't available any more. If you see it just buy it for me! Just unbelievable arrangements and great playing.
He passed away when we were in L.A. recording. We were in the studio watching the news in the control room, and we just went into the studio and came out with this tune. It was a moment full of poignancy.
AAJ: You and Eldee will forever be united and remembered for your performance at Montreux in 1988 which Claude Nobbs described as one of the greatest performances in the first twenty years of the festival. How did you get that gig and what are your memories of it?
JM: I was playing in the Saxophone Club in Singapore in '85 and Claude Nobbs met up with a guy by the name of Fabrice de Barsy from Belgium who owned the club, and he came and heard us play and we talked and then later I recorded in '86 with Eldee... [phone rings] I just mention Fabrice and he calls! Isn't that amazing? [fields the call] Fabrice, I'm doing an interview, I'll call you later. [laughs] I mean what are the chances of that?
AAJ: I'm beginning to believe in coincidences.
JM: Synchronicity. There's no such thing as coincidence. Anyway, Fabrice introduced us to Claude and I gave him a set of my band Jeramzee's album, Faces and Places (Jazznote, 1988) which had Eldee Young and Red Holt and he heard it and said, Wow! Eldee Young and Red Holt! Why don't you come to Montreux with them? He had had them in Montreux in '68 so we went and I also invited [saxophonist] John Stubblefield and O'Donel Levy, a great guitarist from Baltimore.
So we went and did the show and it was just amazing. The audience was great, the sound was great. Ten cameras were shooting for the BBC and it was broadcast all over Europe live and later it was shown in America and Australia. So it was really good for my career, you know at least I wasn't a stranger any more in many places and it also reminded people about Eldee and Red who had such a great earlier career with (pianist) Ramsey Lewis. So it was a great promotion for all of us and a wonderful time.
Then we released the album Monteiro, Young and HoltLive in Montreux (JJ Jazz Records, 1989) and although the album didn't do so well sales-wise it was a great calling card. Whenever you sent it to potential gigs, you know, Monteiro, Young and HoltLive in Montreux, how could you get a better calling card than that?
AAJ And Eldee, for you it must have been big nostalgia returning to Montreux after twenty years?
EY: It was a really big deal for me to go back with this particular team, with Jeremy, and Stubblefield and O'Donel Levy and Red. It was really a crazy night. We found an energy that I didn't know existed. We came on early in the morning and there were people laying on the floor sleeping. We jumped on it and all of a sudden they woke up and went crazy. They started dancing. I loved it! I thought I'd leave my bass down and jump into the audience the way they do at rock concerts. [laughs] They probably would have let me hit the floor! [laughs] It was like, and I use an old phrase, "a happening. You really had to be there to see the energy that was going back and forth between the audience and us.
JM: What was funny was that after I finished I just couldn't believe I'd even been there. Eldee and Red had breakfast before the next show which was Mongo Santamaria, and they were getting hugged and kissed and congratulated, and I just went to be by myself somewhere. I sat down and thought "Did that just happen? I kept pinching myself. I was in a daze. It was very surreal and still is very surreal for me.