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.
"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
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
Q: Looking back what were some of the highlights in your
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
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.