Closing in on an incredible half century as a performer, educator and recording artist, Jeremy Monteiro – world renowned as Singapore’s “King of Swing” – has released over 45 albums as a pianist while serving as a sideman over the years for legendary jazz instrumentalists (from James Moody to Lee Ritenour) and famed jazz singers like Jon Hendricks, Cassandra Wilson and Carmen Bradford.
While constantly learning from the great vocalists and interested in one day trying his luck as a singer himself, his shyness (and his stellar rep as a pianist) kept him out of that game for decades. Then came 2018, when he played with his quartet for the German ambassador at a private party. When he sang, the attendees took notice, boosting his confidence to the point where he decided it was time. While recording a jazz tribute to Stevie Wonder, he began laying down backing tracks for his long in the making debut vocal album, titled simply and appropriately Jeremy Monteiro Sings.
As we hear his warm, winsome and soulful crooning over the course of the ten exquisitely arranged tracks, he needn’t have ever worried – and probably should never have waited this long to engage us. Just as some of his most effective piano work emerges in masterfully subtle strokes, his vocals - whether on standards like “Smile” and “Moon River” or on the gorgeous original ballad “Josefina” he wrote for his wife Josephine – are beautifully heartfelt and understated, almost like sweet invitations to listen ever closer.
While he seems most at home on the ballads (just try not to melt when you hear the dreamlike “You’ll Never Know”), other tunes like the frolicsome, Nat King Cole inspired “Let’s Fall in Love” and “Walking My Baby Back Home” showcase his love for subtle, seductive swinging. Just as Monteiro has brought his monster chops to recordings of the greats, his maiden vocal voyage is buoyed by his trademark piano panache and an ensemble of top Euro jazz artists, most prominently saxophonist Tony Lakatos and guitarist Wesley Gehring.
The lovely rhythm arrangements are given extra warmth via caressing strings created by Monteiro and his Malaysian based arranger and orchestrator friend Michael Veerapen. Monteiro may have waited till album 47 before gracing us with his vocal chops, but hopefully it won’t be long before he regales us with an equally charming sequel.