Musically, one of the sadder aspects of the pandemic year was hearing live recordings of shows that took place before 2020 – because we all wondered if and when the fresh, immediate and transcendent joys of musician-audience communication would return. Now that we’re well on our way back to experiencing live jazz gigs, it’s pure euphoria to listen to a high energy, hard swinging - yet occasionally sensual and romantic – all out jam like Live at No Black Tie Kuala Limpur by the explosive yet nonstop intuitive trio of veteran Singapore pianist Jeremy Monteiro and NYC based rhythm section of bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Lewis Nash.
Recorded at the famed Malaysian club in 2018, the solo-filled, constantly popping and melodically, rhythmically and harmonically surprising and eclectic set offers an opportunity for those unfamiliar with Monteiro’s diverse 45 year career – which has included stints with everyone from James Moody to Simon & Garfunkel – to hear just why the press in his home Republic to call him “Singapore’s King of Swing.” While it’s always lovely to hear his sensitive, graceful side on soft-spoken gems like “Josefina” (an impressionistic original dedicated to his wife), it’s his funky, percussive, hard swinging romps that stand out and remind us of the diverse set of influences that have impacted his career – from Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner to Chick Corea, Ramsey Lewis and Keith Jarrett.
Complementing five Monteiro originals (the most compelling of which are the jaunty “Mount Olive” and the whimsical spiritual narrative of “Monk in the Mountain” storytelling) are wild, freewheeling re-imaginings of classics by Dave Brubeck (“In Your Own Sweet Way,” which lifts off from a mystical improvisational intro), Jule Styne (a playfully frenetic “Just in Time”), Duke Ellington (an immersive, glissando and piano flourish spiced “Prelude to a Kiss”) and Herbie Hancock (via the rambunctious closing roll through “Watermelon Man”).
If you’re already out and about seeing shows again, great. Listen anyway. But If you’re still champing at the bit, be patient but please remind yourself of the immense pleasures of a brilliant trio date with Monteiro and the gang.