Monteiro shows she's the real deal
By Cheryl Kain
August 11, 2006

In a sheer red shirt, sky-high peep-toe heels and effortless charisma, jazz vocalist Shawnn Monteiro took the stage at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) last Wednesday for the Summer Jazz Series, Hosted by Bart Weisman. Joined by pianist John Harrison, drummer Bart Weisman and bassist Laird Boles, the chic, polished and mildly eccentric diva sauntered onstage with one of her trademark handheld fans, a necessity in our New England heat wave.


"I buy fans everywhere I go," added Monteiro. Her ornate fans marry function and form -- as they cool her, they match her colorful outfits. Make no mistake, this is no diva sporting attitude but not delivering on the real goods. She's the "real deal" as the jazz greats say. Whether the nicely sized audience came out purely for the air conditioning or to hear Monteiro, it didn't matter - they were in store for a real treat listening to the late renowned bassist (and Duke Ellington veteran) Jimmy Woode's daughter show off her pipes. As early as the first tune, audience members were tapping their feet keeping time with the stellar rhythm section.


Monteiro's specialty is "The American Songbook," and her rendition of "Old Devil Moon" sounded completely new, as if it had never been sung before, peppered with Shawnn's sex appeal and sass. "Blue Skies" was smooth as silk, complete with melodic scat, transitioned into Thelonious Monk's "In Walked Bud." The two tunes together made for a brilliant composition. Unlike some modern cabaret or musical theatre singers who consider themselves high priestesses of jazz, when Monteiro sings, you know immediately this woman has lived inside her songs and earned the right to call herself a jazz singer. She takes the classic songbook and makes them completely and inimitably her own.


 "Yesterdays'" rubato beginning flowed into snappy time, a beautiful merger between Monteiro and her longtime (30 years) pianist and collaborator John Harrison. In "What is This Thing Called Love," a sweet ballad swells into an Afro-Cuban feel, with drummer Bart Weisman's tasty stick work spinning the tune into a dazzler. Vocalist Monteiro negotiates the music so fluidly, like she was born into the chord changes! Unlike some jazz vocalists with limited range, who prefer to keep their repertoire in the vocal "basement," Monteiro displays a balanced, sonorous virtuosity, blending upper and lower registers, while remaining appropriate to the style - no easy feat for singer or instrumentalist alike.


Fitting in "It Might As Well Be Spring," "Am I Blue," and "Squeeze Me," among other tunes, including "Sometimes I'm Happy," with tasty walking bass by Boles. Monteiro ended the set with the encore, "Ferris Wheel," a haunting song written by her dear friend, the late singer/actor/composer Carl Anderson, who performed his composition years ago with Nancy Wilson. "Ferris Wheel" is a favorite of fans in Italy, as its lush melody and chordal structure are reminiscent of Puccini, or other Italian arias. 


The Jazz Series is sponsored by PAAM, Cape Air, Focus Communications and radio station WOMR.