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Sunday, 10 March 2013

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The stage is her home

The stage bathed in a red glow was an ideal foil for singer Claressa Monteiro who radiated hot vibes in the capacity packed audience at the concert in aid of the National Cancer Institute, Maharagama. Showcased with Jeremy Monteiro and his trio from Singapore Claressa swung her way through with sparkling success right from her opener All Of Me, until her last, From This Moment On. This was her first appearance on a Sri Lankan stage and vocally her dynamic range dipped and swayed with ease displaying her excellence and maturity in her artistry. She was at home on stage, with her soaring voice and glamour.

Claressa Monteiro

"For many years I sang as a studio session singer. Just last year I was asked to do an interview for our local cable network with Diana Krall when she came for a concert. While I was chatting to her she asked me about a record deal. "I said nobody gives a record deal to a jazz singer." She called the executives at Universal Music and told them "How do you expect anybody else to support local talent if you don't, the biggest record label in the world do it first? Eventually, I was signed to a record deal with EmArcy Records and became the first Asian Jazz singer to have a worldwide record deal with Universal. That is why I was glad we had Shamistha de Silva on stage to support local talent," said Claressa.

Question: You are an experienced singer now. Do you feel nervous waiting in the wings to make your entrance?

Answer: "Yes I do, just before I go on stage I think "Oh my God what if I forget my lines". That's only for a minute or two, I've changed my thinking now into "just do your best and you will be fine." At the concert the Sri Lankan audience were very supportive. They seemed to enjoy the music. I hope they did, Because I got so much back from them."

Q: You mentioned record deals. What was the outcome?

A: My first album was titled Now and Then and it contained ballads and standards such as Green Dolphin Street, Embraceable You and The Way You Look Tonight. My second album for EMI contained bossa novas and I have released a third album as well.

Q: Have you had time to dabble in composing original songs?

A: I have composed a few songs. I'm very happy to say that Ernie Watts liked one of my songs. He asked for the sheet of music and he now plays it. Another one of my originals won an award. It's a hit as well. I continue to write. In fact here in Sri Lanka I started working on my album. Watching the sea waves has given me a lot of inspiration.

Q: You have worked together with your brother Jeremy. Have you toured many places?

A: I started my musical career with Jeremy. He ran a jingle production business and I sang a lot of his jingles. I have toured with him to South America, Canada, Europe, Scandinavia and Australia.

I've been around with my music and this is my first visit to Sri Lanka. I sing sometimes with Jeremy's band, sometimes with my own band. If it is swing jazz I like singing with a small outfit, if it is modern jazz then I have to augment the band.

Q: Do you switch your singing styles jazz and pop?

A: I grew up with jazz. I love the music, I'm passionate about the music. I enjoy singing pop.

Sometimes I ask, can we do a theme night? Can we do a disco night? Because there's so much great music such as Gloria Gaynor's Never Can Say Goodbye. I will sing those songs as a novelty but my heart is in jazz.

Q: Looking back what were some of the highlights in your musical career?

Jeremy Monteiro and his trio from Singapore

A: Being involved in the National Day for Singapore. It's been awarded artistic excellence.

In terms of musical excellence my recital to gain my Fellowship in the London College of Music. It was magical because I was being examined, and was offered with the Fellowship from the London College of Music-2012. Of course to be able to go round the world and touch a vibe with people.

Q: Where do you draw your inspiration?

A: Definitely Ella Fitzgerald. You are impressed by her jazz when she puts over a song. And also Billie Holiday. She puts depths of emotion and sensitivity into a ballad that nobody else can. My modern jazz influence is Pat Metheney. His music is incredibly intelligent and he draws you to him like the proverbial Pied Piper.

Q: When you get back to Singapore does it mean more concerts for you or will you slip into your normal routine of performances?

A: I go back to Singapore to pick up from where I left off my radio show in a major station.

I DJ a lunchtime show on Kiss 92 five days a week and each show is of six hour duration. I play a lot of the hits of today but I'm always looking out to play the next hit that will move into the charts.

I'm teaching as well, and so my hands are full. I enjoy my teaching because today's youth need to know the rudiments like how we learnt it and sharing my knowledge gives me tremendous pleasure.

 

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