The jazz maestro continues to explore new ways of bringing music to a wider audience through the Jazz Association (Singapore)

Over 40 years in the business and homegrown jazz musician Jeremy Monteiro says there is still much to learn. For one, there are tunes he wants to master—among them Got a Match? and Eternal Child by American jazz pianist Chick Corea—to add to the about 2,000 songs in his repertoire.

“The beauty of music and jazz is that you cannot stop learning. There’s no destination. You may have certain intermediary points but if someone tells me that I’ve arrived as a jazz musician, I would say, ‘Arrive where?’ There’s no arrival, just a constant journey, which makes it so exciting and interesting,” expounds Monteiro, who is also executive director and music director of the Jazz Association (Singapore), or Jass, which is dedicated to uplifting the Singapore jazz scene to greater heights.

The non-profit organisation also brings together some of the best Singaporean and Singapore-based musicians in its two orchestras, the main orchestra Jasso and its youth orchestra Jassyo!.

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And then, there are the other forms of learning that he calls “needs-based”, even more so in this social media age: to be a better video editor (Monteiro is known to share self-edited clips of his live performances with fans on his Facebook page) and, more recently, a live-stream broadcaster.

Perhaps, both stem from a pressing need—to let the music play on—especially with the current Covid-19 situation, which has been tough on the music industry. With entertainment venues closed, gigs and concerts, including Monteiro’s 60th birthday concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall in June, have either been postponed or cancelled. And like many musicians around the world, Monteiro has turned to online platforms such as Facebook Live and Youtube Live to live stream performances from his home studio.

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“I miss going out, playing with my musician friends and performing for fans and audience members, and interacting with them. But I have to say that I’m also really enjoying the time in my ‘music cave’. [Live streaming] is very new to me, so it’s been a steep and sharp learning curve to go from amateur to semi-pro broadcaster in five weeks,” enthuses Monteiro.

Since late March, Singapore’s King of Swing has been presenting @Home with Jeremy Monteiro, an (almost) weekly live stream, usually on Sunday evenings, where he plays live music, features musicians from around the world—recent guest performers include seven-time Grammy award-winning American trumpeter Randy Brecker and New York-based Singaporean jazz singer Melissa Tham—and plays footage from his previous concerts as well as new music videos.

The upcoming Jass@Home live stream on April 30 at 8.30pm, in celebration of the Unesco International Jazz Day 2020, will be his biggest production yet. The virtual jam session will feature performances by Monteiro, Jass associate music director Weixiang Tan, bassist Christy Smith, drummer Tama Goh, flutist Rit Xu and singer Alemay Fernandez, along with other Singapore-based musicians. Jazz fans can also look forward to a swinging version of the beloved folk song, Singapura.

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When Unesco proclaimed April 30 as “International Jazz Day” in 2011, it highlighted the power of jazz as a force for peace, dialogue and mutual understanding. Monteiro concurs that “the beauty of jazz, in particular instrumental music, is its non-confrontational nature—it’s a universal language of peace. I think our calling as artists is to use our talent to be messengers of peace, love and warmth, especially during this time”.

In line with Jass’ mission to develop jazz education and outreach in Singapore, while strengthening cultural ties with the rest of the world, the Jass@Home online concert will also feature pianists and composers Chok Kerong and Aya Sekine, who will help demystify jazz composition, while Blu Jaz Café’s Aileen Tan and  Maduro’s Peter Ng will share insights on running their jazz establishments. The 2020 Jass Music Scholarship will also be awarded to this year’s recipient in a virtual award ceremony.

On his hopes for young jazz musicians in Singapore, Monteiro shares, “I have jazz families in almost every major city in the world—musicians that I can call upon to play with when I travel or when they come to Singapore—and it has taken me a long time to cultivate these relationships. I want to inculcate this feeling of networking and collaboration among the young musicians in Singapore—it’s precisely what I’m trying to facilitate through the work that we do at the Jazz Association.”

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For now, Monteiro is keeping busy recording his first full vocal album, featuring songs from the Great American Songbook. Named after his wife Josephine, the album will feature an original song written in her honour. “My wife inspires me a lot during my writing, but to overtly write the song with her name like that, I think this is the first one.”

But before that, in the third quarter of the year, Monteiro is planning to release the album, Jeremy Monteiro with Jay Anderson and Lewis Nash Live at No Black Tie, which was recorded two years ago at a jazz club in Kuala Lumpur with the two jazz greats, who were the mentors at the Lion City Youth Jazz Festival in 2018.

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