Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia) is not on the tip of everyone's tongue as a jazz audience or recording destination. However that might be under reconsideration with the release of Live At No Black Tie , a live trio session headed by Singapore pianist Jeremy Monteiro, accompanied by two American jazz notables, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Lewis Nash. In this nine track outing, Monteiro and his cohorts deliver a full bodied take on some jazz standards along with a handful of Monteiro original compositions.
For those who are unfamiliar with Monteiro's style and approach to the piano, the opening three tracks are an interesting sample of the pianist's creative pulse and dexterous technique. First up is Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way," that begins with an oblique introduction without an allusion to the subsequent melody. In this lengthy reading of the composition, the band shows that they are each attuned to the texture of the music. Monteiro's improvisation is filled with references to several dissimilar influences such as Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner. "Just In Time" was written by Jule Stein with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the 1956 musical Bells Are Ringing. The composition dashes along full of drama as the players demonstrate their accommodating style of improvising. No jazz album is complete, it seems, without a Duke Ellington composition, hence "Prelude To A Kiss." Although imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, there is a fine line between that and a lack of one's own voice. Consequently, the Garner-esque opening to the tune may be reverential, but originality is preferable. Following on, bassist Anderson delivers a crisp and adroit clear-toned solo. As Monteiro rejoins the composition, he shows that he does have a genuine harmonic vocabulary that does justice to the interpretation.
The middle section of the release is devoted to Monteiro originals that illustrate his ambitious compositional talent. Of note is "Mode For Love," which is a tribute to tenor saxophonist James Moody. The tune has an interesting modal construct filled with rich energy and intensity. Anderson is again at full measure for his solo, and drummer Nash shows that he can make the drums musically relevant and imaginative.
The album closes with Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man." With both Anderson and Nash laying down a tight rhythmic undercurrent, Monteiro latches on to the number's Latin groove and rides it hard with an assured swagger and swing feel. No apologies required here.
In Your Own Sweet Way; Just in Time; Prelude to a Kiss; Mode for Love (for James Moody); Josefina; Mount Olive
(for Eldee Young & Redd Holt); Life Goes On; Monk in the Mountain; Watermelon Man.
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