A SINGAPORE-BASED guitarist and singer described by Time magazine earlier this year as 'quite possibly the greatest musical interpreter of our time' is in the line-up for this year's A Jazzy Christmas, the annual Christmas jazz concert by Jeremy Monteiro, the local king of swing.
Monteiro has managed to rope in soulful singer and guitarist Paul Ponnudorai, 47, for the concert, now in its fifth year. The latter performs regularly at Harry's Bar at the Esplanade.
Singapore's jazz-meister, referring to Time's praise of Malaysian-born Ponnudorai, says: 'He's a phenomenal musician - it's not an exaggeration at all.'
Monteiro, 47, who will play the piano and jazz organ at the concert, adds: 'I have known Paul for 20 years and we have performed at some corporate functions.'
Music-lovers can look forward to an accessible yet eclectic line-up this year. Also playing are acclaimed American husband-and-wife duo Tuck & Patti, a guitarist and vocalist respectively.
It will be the first time that Monteiro and Tuck & Patti perform together. Monteiro first met the duo in 2001 at a jazz festival and they subsequently became friends. He recalls seeing them perform at a concert in California, when their rendition of a song about protecting the earth reduced the audience of 2,000 to tears.
'That performance had a very special mixture of sadness and joy.'
While the repertoire for A Jazzy Christmas has not been decided yet, Monteiro says the audience can expect the usual sprinkling of Yuletide favourites and 'accessible' jazz.
'Every year, I try to reach out to people who are jazz-curious, so they will come away more interested in this genre,' he says. 'We won't do esoteric jazz that's difficult to understand.'
The veteran musician is not fond of purist musical classifications and, quoting jazz great Duke Ellington, says: 'It's just music, why must you put a label on it? People who are new to jazz get turned off by avant-garde jazz if that's what they come into contact with first. Those who like more mainstream artistes like Michael Buble, after a while they think, he's like a young Frank Sinatra, and start listening to Sinatra.'
Indeed, while he is known for his jazz performances, Monteiro has also dabbled in genres as diverse as heavy metal and pop. Ponnudorai is also versatile in many genres, while Tuck & Patti are adept in folk and soul.
'They are all used to different styles and I would like to think of myself as a little bit of a musical chameleon as well,' says Monteiro. 'So hopefully together, the sum of our performance will be greater than its individual parts.'
A Jazzy Christmas is on at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Dec 22 at 7.30pm. Tickets from $40 to $80 from Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg, tel: 6348-5555). This show is sponsored by Singapore Press Holdings.