Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Jazz-Blues Brothers: Jeremy Monteiro and Alberto Marisco Cook up some Blues

Jazz-Blues Brothers - Jeremy Monteiro & Alberto Marsico Jazz Note 261084-99

It is always a pleasant surprise to discover musicians, unknown to you but admired and respected on an international level, defining the depth and breadth of people who carry on the tradition of jazz and blues throughout the world. Case in point, the latest album from Singaporean pianist Jeremy Monteiro and Italian organ master Alberto Marisco titled Jazz-Blues Brothers on JazzNote Records. While this music is an art form that was developed out of the African American experience, it has and continues to touch the hearts and souls of people of all races, ethnicities, geographical locations, and life experiences. It is a true communicating vehicle that never ceases to astound with its unequaled ability to bring people together and share an emotional expression of the human condition. This album just proves how well absorbed into musician’s DNA this music has become.

Singaporean-based pianist/composer Jeremy Monteiro and Italian-based B3 organ player Alberto Marsico are matched here in this unusual format of having two keyboards. The band includes Oklahoma-raised saxophonist Shawn Letts, drummer Shawn Kelley, who makes Syracuse NY his home, and the guitarist Eugen Pao who hails from Hong Kong. The album includes two performances recorded live in London at the Elgar Room in Albert Hall and includes the under the radar vocalist chanteuse Miz Dee Logwood on two blues classics “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water” made famous by Lou Rawls and an Etta James notable “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

The album starts with the Marsico composition aptly titled “Opening Act,” a swinging, sauntering blues. Monteiro’s piano comps perfectly.  Marisco’s funky B3 excites with his fluid and gutsy approach which is pure joy. Letts’ blows his tenor with ease and confidence as Kelley’s drums and Marisco’s foot-based bottom lines keep the pace swinging. Pao’s guitar work is a revelation. This man has some overflowing ideas that just fit without being trite or overplayed. Monteiro’s piano solo is exciting as it is appropriately funky.

Monteiro’s composition “Olympia” was first heard on saxophone great Ernie Watts album Stand Up from 1993.  Monteiro joked he was watching the Los Angles Summer Olympics back in 1984 and wrote this driving gem inspired by the sports event. There is the drive of sports competition and the regality event in this music.  Marisco’s feet set the beat. There is pushing tenor work by Letts (you can just hear Watts influence), and percolating drum work by Kelley setting up the locomotive rhythmic drive of this incendiary piece. Monteiro offers a scorching piano solo that demonstrates the mastery of this man. Marisco adds his own organ version of flame-throwing creativity. Pao’s solo dances on his fretboard with amazing tenacity and precision. This one just breathes fire.

Getting back to a swinging blues, North California-based Miz Dee Logwood gravely voice is featured here on “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water”. The group swings at a brisk pace and Monteiro’s piano sets the stage with his own remarkably athletic piano work that just lets loose. Logwood is a gem of authenticity and soul.

Eugene Pao. Shawn Letts, Jeremy Monteiro, Alberto Marisco Shawn Kelley

Monteiro’s “Mount Olive” has a funky, gospel-like feel that was inspired by and written for the Mount Olive Baptist Church in Washington D.C. a place that the pianist visited and was moved by the church's musicality. Marisco has his B3 set to be angelically inspired and Monteiro’s piano is as funky as if listening to the late Billy Preston in spirit.

Marisco offers four other compositions for this project. The first is the slow sizzling composition “Lou” which lasts for over eleven minutes. The song first features Letts on some burning tenor solo on this homage written to the great blues-jazz singer Lou Rawls. The music starts slow and builds to a white-hot apex with each soloist performing in progression. Monteiro’s piano gets the next chance to work on the build-up and goes from gospel to funk. Pao gets his turn on his ripping guitar work. Ultimately Marisco offers the finale with an inspired B3 solo that shows that this man’s organ voice is both inventive and very potent. B3 master Joey DeFrancesco has called Marisco “…one of my favorite organists.” and this kind of playing verifies his respect.

Probably the funkiest of the songs on this plethora of fun and moving music is Marisco’s composition “Jack-Pot” which is another homage this time to jazz organ great Jack McDuff. This one just gets into an infectious groove that just won’t kick. The gang starts with guitarist Pao who continues to surprise with his inventive language and formidable chops. Monteiro’s piano is just smoking and worth the price of admission. No wonder why Monteiro is called “Singapore’s King of Swing.”  He is also the go-to pianist for name artists playing in Asia. Marisco’s organ work on this one is just classic, steeped in  the style of veteran B3 legend McDuff ,who is a Marisco inspiration.  

“Catastrophy,” a "going to the races" composition that has the band stretch out and features some nice drum work by Kelley> The closer “Wish Washy” is a soulful end of evening piece that Marisco uses at his home performances and was recorded by the band remotely during the pandemic from worldwide locations including Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Italy.

The real closer to this album is the soulful live performance from London featuring some down-home blues by Miz Dee Logwood, just a treasure to hear sing on Etta James’    “I’d Rather Go Blind” which she just owns with sincerity and grizzle. The band, Marisco, Monteiro, and Kelley set the stage like a throne for the queen Logwood, and she rises to the challenge regally. Pao rips out a fantastic guitar solo that goes from soft and soulful to fiery and screeching then back again, inspired by the whole simpatico of this great performance.

Be assured Jazz-Blues Brothers is sure to give you many hours of enjoyable music listening.

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