Music review: Singaporean pianist Jeremy Monteiro's Verve debut is soulful and satisfying

CD cover: Jazz-Blues Brothers by Jeremy Monteiro and Alberto Marsico, -- PHOTO: SHOWTIME PRODUCTION
CD cover: Jazz-Blues Brothers by Jeremy Monteiro and Alberto Marsico, -- PHOTO: SHOWTIME PRODUCTION


Jeremy Monteiro and Alberto Marsico (Verve)

3 stars

Here, there and everywhere is how you might describe the past three weeks in the lives of keyboard maestros Jeremy Monteiro and Alberto Marsico, along with their gig mates Shawn Letts (tenor saxophone), Eugene Pao (guitar) and Shawn Kelley (percussion).

The quintet have been touring Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Shanghai and Hong Kong with guest vocalist Rani Singam, playing songs from this plush, please-everyone album.

Here There & Everywhere is also the best track on this eight-song album, a Beatles cover so turned down that it is at once prayerful and piquant, as transporting as it is tantalising.

But here, there and everywhere is also how you might feel about this album. Recording over two days, the super-tight quintet are off to a rollicking start with Monteiro's composition, Mount Olive, whose grinding rhythm oddly comes off as undemanding, and so makes this album lead-in disappointingly tepid.

They do sizzle things up on the next three songs, notably Olympia, before veering off into eternity with another Monteiro song, Monk In The Mountain, which is an exquisite blend of off-kilter beats and mesmerising melody. The brothers then bounce out of bottomlessness, float high and beyond and then crash defiantly with Catastrophy, with its frenetic "That's all, folks" vibe.

Marsico comes to the fore in Jack-Pot, with lush cascades of chords on his organ that transforms a sassy strut into an epic swing-out.

But the stand-out star of this outing is Letts. The assured saxophonist's toasty tone on Opening Act is just right for Marsico's fretless romps. Then Letts lets rip on Lou, lending much-needed short, sharp bursts to an otherwise introspective number. What delight.

It is all soulful, satisfying stuff, shot through with joy even during its quiet turns. All in all, it's a fine Singaporean debut on the legendary Verve label.

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