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"Although jazz is no longer the 'pop' music of the day unlike the 1930s and 1940s when it was, there is still a lot of interest in the genre," says Monteiro.

Note by note with Singapore's 'King of Swing'

Aug 25, 2017 5:50 AM

JEREMY Monteiro not only loves playing jazz - he can't stop talking about it, either.

The tireless "King of Swing" has been on a one-man mission to promote the genre for decades now - not just through concerts but also with lectures that he has given across more than a hundred schools, colleges and polytechnics since the 1980s.

"I've reached out to more than 80,000 students!" the 57-year-old muses, ahead of his A Brief History of Jazz appreciation talk and performance that will take place on Saturday at Thomson Community Club.

Attendees can expect to hear Monteiro wax lyrical in addition to performing with an ensemble that he has put together.

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The talk comes on the back of him recently starting the non-profit Jazz Association (Singapore) Ltd (JASS) together with some friends. The outfit aims to encourage participation and enhance the level of excellence in the genre.

It received its charity status from the Singapore government this March and has two orchestras under its stead: the main Jazz Association of Singapore Orchestra (JASSO) and the Jazz Orchestra of Singapore Youth Orchestra (JassYO!).

"Besides my own professional career as a touring performing and recording artist, I devote a substantial part of my week rehearsing the two jazz orchestras," Monteiro points out.

His foray into the genre was almost accidental: "I studied classical music for eight years from when I was seven, but four years into it, I heard jazz and fell in love with its spontaneously and vibrancy - especially with the improvisation ... (and) the ability to play the same song over and over again and make it sound different (each time)."

According to Monteiro, the Singapore jazz scene was born in the 1950s, not long after World War II, with Gerry Soliano and the Boys playing at the Raffles Hotel until 1956. Also in the band was Maestro Soliano's nephew Rufino Soliano, who later on became the leader of the Singapore Broadcasting Orchestra.

"The Solianos dominated the scene (here and across the Causeway) and another notable member of the jazz scene, drummer Louis Soliano, eventually came to be known as the leader of the Singapore jazz scene until about the late 1980s," Monteiro explains.

He says that Louis Soliano remains active to this day despite being in his mid-70s, and cites another important figure on the homegrown scene: the late pianist and arranger Iskandar Ismail, who returned in the early 1980s after completing his music studies at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

"Although jazz is no longer the 'pop' music of the day unlike the 1930s and 1940s when it was, there is still a lot of interest in the genre," Monteiro adds. "These days we find some very well-educated and talented young jazz musicians making their mark on the scene after having successfully completed their master's degrees in the US - namely pianists Chok Kerong and Tan Wei Xiang as well as guitarist Andrew Lim - (and other) notable local jazz singers who have released albums include Alemay Fernandez and Melissa Tham (who will be performing on Saturday at the talk)."