Jazz masters' first double act

Expect to hear jazz standards and originals at Kenny Barron and Jeremy Monteiro's first joint gig

Jeremy Monteiro
Kenny Baron

When two jazz masters get together, they are, naturally, expected to bond over music.

For Kenny Barron, one of the United States' most esteemed jazz pianists, and home-grown maestro Jeremy Monteiro, they are just as likely to do so over food.

When Barron arrives here for the first time to play their first duo show together at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Aug 26, Monteiro's priority is to take the visitor to eat some curry.

"I'm threatening to take him to Samy's Curry and set his stomach on fire," Monteiro, 55, says with a laugh in a joint telephone interview with Barron, 72.

The latter adds: "With food and music, we'll definitely bond over there."

I'm threatening to take him to Samy's Curry and set his stomach on fire.

JEREMY MONTEIRO on his food plans for jazz pianist Kenny Barron after the latter arrives in Singapore


  • WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall

  • WHEN: Aug 26, 7.30pm

  • ADMISSION: $48, $68 and $88 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Never mind Barron's stomach. His show with Monteiro will probably be on fire.

For the Singaporean, a Cultural Medallion recipient in 2002, the upcoming gig is a dream come true.

"Kenny is one of my all-time favourite piano players and I have actually been listening to him for a long time, especially his work with Stan Getz," he says.

Barron's playing, he elaborates, has "beautiful lyricism", with a harmonic approach that is "just so sweet and tasteful".

"The thing that really resonated with Kenny's playing is that people always talk about jazz being so cerebral, something that you just think about, but Kenny's playing goes straight to your heart.

"I think that art is when you stimulate people not just on the mind level, but also in the heart."

With six decades of experience under his belt, Barron is described by The Los Angeles Times as one of the best jazz pianists in the world.

In June this year, the 10-time Grammy nominee was voted Pianist of the Year in the annual Critics Poll by authoritative jazz magazine DownBeat.

The brother of late tenor saxophonist Bill Barron, he has played with jazz luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie, Getz and James Moody and has appeared on hundreds of jazz recordings as both leader and sideman.

He and Monteiro first met when they both played Moody's show at late blues icon B.B. King's New York club in 2007.

They were reacquainted last year when Monteiro did an opening set for Barron and bass player Dave Holland at the EFG London Jazz Festival.

They keep in touch via telephone and e-mail and Monteiro regularly sends his music to Barron.

The American pianist says he is impressed by Monteiro's playing, so he did not hesitate to say yes when the topic of a collaboration between them was broached.

"I listen to the records he sent me. One of the things you listen for, for me, is a certain kind of compatibility - will our styles work together?

"And I can hear that right away. He's very energetic and he's got a lot of fire and I really like that," says Barron, whose most recent album, The Art Of Conversation, recorded with Holland, was released last year.

"So I think this show is going to be a lot of fun. And he's a very nice guy, a good human being, which is very, very important."

According to Monteiro, the setlist will comprise jazz standards such as Day Dream and Have You Met Miss Jones, as well as the duo's original tunes.

For Barron, these will include his best known tunes such as Calypso and Voyage. Monteiro will play songs such as Lion City, a special SG50 piece commissioned by the EFG London Jazz Festival .

Barron, a highly respected teacher who has taught at New Jersey's Rutgers University and New York's Juilliard School of Music, says he foresees the both of them getting together for more collaborations after the upcoming show.

Monteiro concurs. "This is the first time we are getting together, so I think we will get to discover each other a lot more as people as well as musicians.

"We take it one step at a time and I would love for more things to come out of it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'Jazz masters' first double act'. Print Edition | Subscribe