Back in April of this year, we brought you the elite trio of pianist Jeremy Monteiro aka Singapore’s King of Swing, bassist Jay Anderson, and drummer Lewis Nash Live at No Black Tie. That session introduced this writer and you readers to the swinging, bluesy piano style of Monteiro. Now he takes into that sweet spot of jazz and blues, recalling the likes of Jimmy Smith, Stanley Turrentine, Brother Jack McDuff and others in the soul-jazz idiom. Remarkably, Jazz-Blues Brothers, wherein Monteiro teams with Italian B3 master Alberto Marsico, is Monteiro’s 46th album as a bandleader. The album was released in every country of the world except the U.S. and Canada in 2014 on Verve. Now it comes with three new tracks.
Marsico has releases 11 CDS as a leader and receives high praise from none other than Joey DeFrancesco. The album has three compositions from the pianist, five from the organist and one indelibly famous Etta James tune. International players joining them to form a quintet are saxophonist Shawn Letts, a native Okie who has resided in Singapore for many years, Eugene Pao, a Hong Kong native, and drummer Shawn Kelly, originally from upstate New York, who has resided in Southeast Asia for many years. All three of them, especially Pao and Kelly boast formidable resumes as sidemen. Northern Californian vocalist Miz Dee Logwood sings on “I’d Rather God Blind” and “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water.”
These kindred spirits open with the aptly named “Opening Act,” penned by Marsico, a soul-jazz groove the features the Marsico, Pao and Letts digging deep and some fine ensemble work from the quintet. Several of these tunes, including this one extends beyond seven minutes, allowing for plenty of stretching out. Monteiro’s “Olympia” first made its debut on an Ernie Watts album, and the pianist is at his funky best here. You may recognize “Mount Olive” from the aforementioned Live at No Black Tie, reimagined in a funk format here versus the swing on the former. Marsico pays tribute to one of his major influencers, Lou Rawls,” on the down and dirty “Lou” and to Jack McDuff on “Jack-Pot.”
The two blues vocals were recorded live at the prestigious Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Miz Dee Logwood, endeared by Northern Californian fans, is a new name to this writer, but she impresses here on the Etta James tune, brought to a slow simmer that builds to a boil; and “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water,” one that the late Nancy Wilson used to sing fronting Cannonball Adderley’s band. These are both strong spots for guitarist Pao, who is especially incendiary on “I’d Rather Go Blind.”
“Catastrophy,” penned by Marsico, with its jagged, angular, and complex lines stands apart from the soul-jazz here. It’s edgy, up-tempo, bringing out the best as all members solo, with Marsico and Letts especially shining. “Wishy Washy,” a joyous boogaloo, has been a staple in Marsico’s shows but here the five collaborators each laid down their track in a separate studio due to the pandemic. Monteiro was in his home studio, Letts was in one next door, Kelly was in Thailand while Pao was in Hong Kong and Marsico was across the globe in Italy.
This is the intersection of blues and jazz. The album has searing moments and killer musicianship. Yes, it will make you feel good and leave you puzzled as to why we didn’t hear back in 2014 when so many others did.
- Jim Hynes