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Finding the swing in a year of highs and lows
SINGAPORE'S hardest-working jazz musician has gone the extra mile yet again to live up to his name.
Just over a month after the release of his Jazz-Blues Brothers album on the renowned Verve label and while in the midst of yet another European tour which includes the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the London Jazz Festival, Jeremy Monteiro is set to spread some festive cheer with another new offering, Christmas In Our Hearts.
It's his first seasonal album in more than two decades and features a dozen Christmas carols and hymns such as Hark The Herald Angels Sing, O Holy Night, A Child is Born, We Three Kings and more - reinterpreted with the tireless pianist's trademark jazzy swing. Not only that, the album also boasts an original composition, Let's Keep Christmas In Our Hearts, written by Monteiro with singer-lyricist Rani Singam and performed by the latter and the Sunshine Gospel Choir from Italy.
Despite the long break between festive albums, the 54-year-old has been playing regular A Jazzy Christmas shows at the Esplanade every December and will return with the tenth edition on the back of this new release, which The Business Times co-sponsored.
"I didn't want to (record another seasonal record) again until I could take the expression of Christmas through jazz music to a much-higher level than the last time, which I think I have achieved," Monteiro says, of the 20-year gap.
The original composition Monteiro wrote with Singam is extra special not only because it's the only track to contain vocals but also the former feels it reflects the main sentiment of the whole album - "to keep the feeling of love, generosity, kindness and goodwill to all people throughout the year and not only during December".
Besides it being his favourite song from the CD, Let's Keep Christmas In Our Hearts has also impressed the senior management at Universal Music, which is distributing the album.
"(They) feel that the song stands up against any Christmas song written in the past 60 years," Moneteiro beams. "I think that song will have a life of its own and I hope it will be recorded by many other artists from around the world in future years."
His all-time favourite carol, however is Silent Night, which he covers naturally as the closing track. "It allows me to imagine being in the stable at the time of the birth of Christ - listening to various versions always makes me shed a tear or two," he reveals.
Christmas In Our Hearts is also coming out in a bittersweet year of highs and lows for Monteiro, who had the honour of being the first local artist to have his album released on the Verve label but whose mother also passed away earlier this year. Hence, celebrations are naturally expected to be slightly muted and will be spent in quiet reflection.
"The best (Christmases) were in my early teens when my mum and dad, sisters Sheila and Claressa, and I would spend it at home; I am sad that my mum left us this year and this Christmas will be the first one where both our parents are not with us," he shares.
But recording the album has helped bring back "many lovely memories of Christmases with the whole family together"; as will playing the upcoming show - "I am looking forward to making this year's A Jazzy Christmas concert a really special one that leaves people with big smiles on their faces and warm glows in their hearts," Monteiro adds.
"Christmas In Our Hearts" is out in all record stores now. To celebrate its release, Jeremy Monteiro will be playing the Esplanade Concert Hall on Dec 20 at 7.30pm. Tickets at S$30, S$50 and S$70 available from Sistic and at the venue