Sunday, 10 October 2010

ALONE TOGETHER Jeremy Monteiro Solo Recital / Review

Jeremy Monteiro, Piano
Esplanade Recital Studio
Friday (8 October 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 11 October 2010.

Ask any pianist, and they will tell you that the most demanding activity is the solo recital. With no partners to rely on or bail you out, you are on your own, completely exposed. Local jazz legend Jeremy Monteiro and Cultural Medallion winner admitted to feeling “like a lamb to the slaughterhouse”.

Without fuss or pomp, he quietly settled down at the keyboard to do what he did best – muse and improvise. There were scores in front, but he need not have bothered. He instead began with simple chords, established a rhythm and elaborated unceasingly, first probing and then plunging in without fear.

Dave Brubeck’s In Your Own Sweet Way was the opener, and then he slowed the tempo for local guitarist Andrew Lim’s Still Life, fashioned as a waltz. Light and bluesy, these came off with much sympathy and fervor.

The universal voice of jazz meant that Singaporean classical composer Kelly Tang’s piano concerto Montage, originally scored with Chinese orchestra, did not sound out of place in present company. Its nocturne-like meditation soothed and tugged at heart-strings.

In Things Ain’t What They Used To Be by Mercer Ellington, the slow chorale melody gathered pace and volume, as the right hand’s flourishes became increasingly more ornamented. Monteiro strummed the insides of the grand piano, and the march proceeded with wide-striding swagger.

By now, he had played nearly 40 minutes without break, and his hands paused to unveil Monteiro the standup comedian. Recounting many travels, his tales Рreal or imagined Рcould have been a little more risqu̩. But there was at least one child in the audience, and the young man was invited to craft a sequence of notes for him to improvise on.

That turned out to be a tone row which might have made the Second Viennese School proud! Unfazed, Monteiro conjured a short bagatelle. The magic of jazz is that you can cross all tonalities, dabble with serialism and come out sounding coherent.

He also sang, crooning about the charms of Mona Lisa, before closing with the eponymous Alone Together, in a slightly tipsy 7/8 rhythm. His sole encore Life Goes On sang of heartbreak and calming acceptance. An hour with Jeremy Monteiro passed like short minutes. Is that the Theory of Relativity at work?

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