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Jazztastic - The Living Room Jazz Festival

By: Vincent Sung - Expat Advisory Thailand Posted: June-21-2011 in
Jeremy Monteiro
Vincent Sung - Expat Advisory Thailand

Viva the Jazz
Interview and photography by Vincent Sung

The Living Room at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit Hotel celebrated its 10th anniversary as Bangkok's premier jazz venue this past June with an extraordinary world-class live jazz event. Vincent Sung had a chance to sit down for a chat with two of the renowned international musicians: pianist Jeremy Monteiro, dubbed the “King of Swing”, and two-time Grammy award winner Ernie Watts.


Q: You have received many awards and numerous recognitions for your talent and
recently for your performances as vocalist. What advice would you give to young
talents hoping to achieve a successful career in the jazz music industry?

Jeremy: Receiving awards is a wonderful ‘pat on the back’ for things that have already
happened. When I was younger, I guess things like an award, or money, or fame used
to be an impetus for me, but as I grew older I find that they are no longer so important.

The impetus is the joy of playing music for its own sake. For the young artists I
would say “just try to make the best music you can possibly make as a composer, as
a musician, and not allow money or fame or awards to be the driving forces because
when you chase that, the music will not be sincere”

Q: Traveling the world as you do, for your musical performances, what are the things/
items that you could not travel without, and how do you deal with jet lag and with your constantly
changing surroundings?

Jeremy: Like Ernie, I live in my own personal time zone. I don’t travel as much as
Ernie does. My secret is to put ‘space’ in my travel by arriving two days earlier, and get
a little used to the time zone when I can. I try to avoid too tight, or too frenzied tours, even
if I make a little less money. I’d rather do things ‘tai chi’ rather than ‘karate’. I would
not travel without my noise cancellation headphones. I have two different kinds: a
Nokia one and a Bose brand one. Also I would leave my computer at home and always
bring my i-Pad wherever I travel.

Q: What do you think about the current music industry in general and which
contemporary artist do you admire the most?

Jeremy: I don’t listen to a whole lot of pop, but I like John Mayer. I still love to listen
to Herbie Hancock for what he has to offer, and Keith Jarrett is my favorite pianist
to listen to. And I like to listen to Brad Mehldau because he pushes the boundaries
of what can be done on the piano... bringing in a lot of classical techniques and
independent baroque styles.

Q: Which Thai food/ingredients would you associate with the kind of music you play?

Jeremy: Tom Yam Khung: hot and spicy!

Q: Which place in Thailand is your favorite holiday destination? And which bring back your best
holiday memories/anecdotes?

Jeremy: So much to see, so much Thailand has to offer. I am a Gemini so I don’t really
have a favorite anything, but I guess I like Krabi a lot. I like Phuket very much.
Krabi is a little more peaceful with beautiful beaches, and the town in Krabi is more quiet
and laidback unlike in Phuket (especially when you wish to have a holiday).

Too many good memories to recollect right now…

Q: How did you meet Jeremy Monteiro and how/where was the first performance you
did together?

Ernie: I met Jeremy over the phone. He called me and we talked about music. He
asked me if I would be able to come to Singapore to play some music with him in
1987. Since then we have been playing together. I love Asia and this part of the
world. It is very comfortable for my personality.

Q: How would you describe your personality?

Ernie: It is a culture where it is flexible for people to be who they are and there are
lots of different things to do that fit different types of personalities. I am pretty quiet,
so I like to take walks, to go to bookstores and I like to wander. Asia offers lots of
great places to have adventures, to walk and to see different things that I am not used to
being in the United States.

Q: Having played with numerous famous singers and bands as well as on movie
soundtracks, what are the challenges you encountered as saxophonist?

Ernie: I think the most important is being flexible, loving to play a lot of different
music, so when I am in different environments with different types of players, that is
all comfortable for me. I try to keep my mind open.

Q: The sound of the saxophone is very sensual, and can be compared to a mysterious
woman, but why is the saxophone mostly played by men?

Ernie: I think of it as very masculine, as a voice. The sound of saxophone is very
similar to a human voice, especially the tenor saxophone, the range of the instrument.
For me it is an energy sound, so I don’t look at it as a feminine sound. I look at it as a
masculine sound. It depends on the sort of instrument that you focus on.

Q: You both have a very eclectic mix of careers and musical genres. How do you get
your inspiration for new creations?

Ernie: Just from life. Music is life. What you play is a reflection of what you live.
As you live in the world and you meet people and you talk to people. You have
impressions of things that you remember, and from these impressions, from these
concepts, you write your music, your have sounds. When you are a musical person,
you hear all kind of sounds. Like right now there is piano music being played. It
is very hard for me to focus on this conversation because my mind is so tuned into
music. We are talking but I am hearing this piano. If you go to the market there is
music, if you go to the shoe store, if you go to the train station... there is continual
music all the time. Almost like music pollution!

© Tropical magazine / Contributing writer/photographer - Vincent Sung


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