Forty-five albums in as many years represents remarkable consistency from pianist Jeremy Monteiro
Singapore's King of Swing. It is worth recounting that Monteiro has played with the likes of Charlie Haden
, Benny Golson
, Toots Thielemans
, Cassandra Wilson
, both Michael Brecker
and Randy Brecker
, James Moody
, Eldee Young
and, for over thirty years, with Ernie Watts
. Oh yes, Monteiro can swing alright, as this live recording in the stellar company of Jay Anderson
and Lewis Nash
Recorded in Kuala Lumpur during a 2018 tour of Malaysia and China, the trio presents standards and originals, tipped slightly in favor of Monteiro's own compositions. It marks a return to the pianist's familiar stomping ground after of series of homage albums to Michel Legrand (To Paris With Love: A Tribute to the Genius of Michel Legrand
(2015), The Carpenters (Yesterday Once More
(2018), Antonio Carlos Jobim
( Brazilian Dreams
, 2016) and to Stevie Wonder (Overjoyed
(2019)all on Monteiro's Jazznote label.
Nominally a trio of equals, this is principally a showcase for Monteiro, an abundantly gifted pianist and a composer of memorable tunes. The Singaporean sets the bar high on Dave Brubeck
's "In Your Own Sweet Way," displaying his mastery of the keyseither side of solos spots for Anderson and Lewis, on brusheswith a powerful yet nuanced performance that flirts coyly with the original melody.
The pianist excels on "Just in Time," exhibiting a broad range of dynamics. Light, dancing phrases in the upper registers give way to rapid glissandi and punchy chords. Spectacular, the conjunction of Monteiro's dizzying, right-handed circular motif while his left works the bass keys to dramatic effect. It's a bravura performance that ignites the crowd's enthusiasm. Monteiro reveals a more refined side of his craft on an arresting interpretation of Duke Ellington
's "Prelude to a Kiss," which features a wonderfully delicate solo from Anderson.
The swinging "Mode for Love," underpinned by Anderson's walking bass, is Monteiro's impassioned tribute to James Moody, with whom he enjoyed a fifteen-year collaboration. In his award-winning book Late Night Thoughts of a Jazz Musician
(Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2018), Monteiro credits Moody with persuading him to commit to the tempo of a ballad wholeheartedly. It's a lesson that has clearly served Monteiro well, judging by the slower, self-penned numbers on this set. On the elegant "Josefina," Monteiro's heartfelt tribute to his wife, and the no less affecting "Life Goes On," there is just a hint of Ahmad Jamal
's light-and-dark spectrum in the pianist's painterly shading. Anderson's aching solo on the latter, is perhaps the pick of the bassist's interventions.
Monteiro honors the late Chicagoan bassist Eldee Young on the bluesy "Mount Olive." Young earned his spurs playing with the likes of Joe Turner
, and Big Joe Williams
in his pre-Count Basie
days. Little wonder then, having played with Young for twenty years, that Monteiro is as versed in the blues as he is in swing. Here, Monteiro conjures the uplifting feel of Billy Taylor
's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" on this stylish originala fitting tribute to the memory of the ebullient Young.
Contrasting solos from all characterize the modal-based "Monk in The Mountain," but it is Monteiro's rhapsodic energy that really lifts the music. The trio bids adieu with a funky version of Herbie Hancock
's "Watermelon Man."
Another notable addition to the discography of Monteiro, who continues to cement Singapore's place on the international jazz map with his customary panache.
In Your Own Sweet Way; Just in Time; Prelude to a Kiss; Mode for Love; Josefina; Mount
Olive; Life Goes On; Monk in The Mountain; Watermelon Man.
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