AAJ: I'm trying to visualize this but I'm having great difficulty!
EY: Who is this guy?
JM: Sri Chinmoy. He's the leader of the Interfaith Meditation Group at the United Nations. He's an Indian guru who lives in New Yorkone of the few that hasn't been arrested for tax fraud and so on.
AAJ: I urge you Jeremy, never to make an inner album cover like the one John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana did with Sri Chinmoy for the Love, Devotion and Surrender (Columbia, 1973) album.
JM: I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a Sri Chinmoy devotee but I do appreciate that someone like him should decides to honor me like that.
AAJ: You've played with a lot of great musicians over the years; which collaborations stand out?
JM: Well, you know, when I was about thirteen or fourteen years old I remember listening to a Toots Thielemans recording on a Quincy Jones record and the tune was a song written by Ray Brown called "Brown's Ballad. It was so moving I had tears in my eyes and my mum came in and said to me, "What's wrong with you? and I said, "I don't know, I just heard the most beautiful sound! And from that point I always dreamt of playing with Toots Thielemans. So when I got a chance to play with Toots when he was 81 years old, three years ago, well that stood out. But I've had a great kaleidoscope of experiences.
AAJ: You also have an ongoing project called Asiana. What can you tell us about that?
JM: Well, the project started in 1992 when the promoter of the Simon and Garfunkel concert in Singapore asked If I could put together a band to open for Simon and Garfunkel, playing some kind of ethno-fusion music because they had reportedly only been doing fifty five minute concerts so they felt they needed to put up another concert for the seven thousand people to make up the time.
So, I formed a group with the top Asian jazz musiciansLewis Pragasam, a really good drummer from Malaysia who plays a lot with Bob James, and also Eugene Pao, a great guitarist from Hong Kong and an Indian percussionist and so on. That is how it started and we've gotten together every couple of years to do some sort of project.
It was amazing because Simon and Garfunkel needed a replacement keyboard player because their keyboard player was held back in Toronto on some charge by the police.
AAJ: Yeah, maybe for only playing for fifty five minutes!
JM: So, they used a local keyboard player in Tokyo and they used me in Singapore, so that was great. I remember at the end of the concert I felt like I was just a sub guy in the band and I walked to the side of the stage. And there's Simon and Garfunkel, Steve Gadd, Michael Brecker, Armand Sabaleco, all these great guys taking their bows, and Paul Simon noticed that I wasn't on stage and he actually went off the stage to grab me to take my bows with the band which I thought was really sweet.
AAJ: There seem to be a lot of young jazz festivals in South East Asia; Bangkok is four years old, Hua Hin is four years old too. Then there's a new jazz festival starting in Chiang Mai in February. There's a five year-old festival in Hanoi and Saigon, and Malaysia has the Penang festival, now in its third year plus another whose name I can't remember and in Indonesia you have Java Jazz and Jakjazz, both young festivals. Not forgetting your own upcoming Jazznote festival, and the Mosaic festival in Singapore which is effectively a jazz festival. Is this a sign that jazz is very healthy in South East Asia or is it simply a desire to promote jazz?
JM: I think a lot of the big jazz festivals are sponsored by corporations who feel that jazz music resonates with their demographic that they're trying to reach out to, the target audience and the product character, and that's why all of a sudden there's money for jazz.
However sometimes the corporations have got a very clear mandate, you know, Heineken are very fusiony in content and so there's no straight ahead jazz in the Heineken festivals which is a pity because Freddy Heineken used to be a big supporter and a great fan of all kinds of jazz.
That's why I want to do a small festival. Yes, of course there has got to be some resonance with the sponsors who come in, but it's got to be about the music at the end of the day.
Jeremy Monteiro, Homecoming (Jazznote, 2006)
Greg Fishman & Jeremy Monteiro, Only Trust Your Heart (Jazznote, 2005)
Jeremy Monteiro, My Foolish Heart (Jazznote, 2005)
Jeremy Monteiro, A Song for you, Karen (F.I.M., 2003)
Jeremy Monteiro, Swinging In Chicago (Sangaji, 2003)
Syahavani, Love (Sangaji, 2002)
Jeremy Monteiro, The Girl From Ipanema (Sangaji, 2001)
Jeremy Monteiro, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Sangaji, 1999)
Ernie Watts, Stand Up (Odyssey Records, 1992)
Monteiro,Young & Holt, Blues For The Sax Club (JJ Jazz Records, 1990)
Monteiro,Young & Holt, Live at Montreux (JJ Jazz Records, 1989)
Jeremy Monteiro, Always in Love (JJ jazz Records, 1989)
Jerazmee, Faces and Places (Jazznote, 1988)
Top Two Photos: Courtesy of Jeremy Monteiro
Bottom Two Photos: Russel Wong, courtesy of Jeremy Monteiro