Jazz singer Shawnn Monteiro is returning to Chan’s Saturday night after a 20-year absence from the legendary venue famous for “egg rolls, jazz and blues.” The show comes on the heels of her new release You Are There, an album of jazz standards featuring Monteiro on vocals fronting two stellar studio bands.
I spoke to Monteiro last week and learned more about the upcoming show and the new album. Acknowledging it’s been a rough couple of years for live music, she’s looking forward to getting back out in front of a hometown audience.
“Any opportunity I’m offered these days I try to do, but there haven’t been many lately,” she says. “We’re praying it will just go away and we’ll have careers again soon. The Village Vanguard (in New York City) had a run of six nights a week going, but then a couple of weeks ago, they closed again. So you just got to catch it at the right time.”
Her new album is actually a combination of two recording sessions, one done in New York City in 2014 and another at Stable Sounds in Portsmouth in 2021. The first session featured support from award-winning pianist Kenny Baron.
“I have known Kenny for at least 25 years because I did a lot of my work in Europe and we always ended up on a show together,” explains Monteiro. “I had a concept that I wanted to do so we went into the studio in Brooklyn near Kenny’s home and we did half of the album. I sat home and listened to it for a while and there was just something missing. It didn’t quite feel complete.”
It took almost seven years to finish the album. That’s when the late pianist and RI native Mike Renzi came to the rescue.
“I had my own band and we had toured Europe several times and we went into the studio. I told them the songs I wanted to do and Mike Renzi was a Svengali. He turned them into magic. We did the second half of the album and the two parts fit together seamlessly even though there was time apart between them,” continued Monteiro.
“The title tune ‘You are There’ honored my father who had died during the process of making the album. I wanted to give him something back. The song ‘You are There’ is about someone who is in a garden in a dream and they meet a person, but when they wake up they realize that person is really gone.”
It was worth waiting for, explains Monteiro.
“Sometimes you have to wait to really feel good about an album. I didn’t feel good at first, but when I brought in Mike Renzi, God bless his soul … we got that second part down in one day.”
The album includes several jazz standards like “Autumn Leaves” and “The Shadow of Your Smile” as well as a few lesser-known tunes. Monteiro is pleased with the finished product.
“I think I picked more sensitive songs, I picked songs that really spoke to my heart, more so than being commercial. It’s one of my best works and that’s what makes the album resonate with people. It really came from the heart. These songs are meaningful.”
Musicians on the recording include Kenny Barron, Mike Renzi, Dave Zinno, Steve Langone, Nat Reeves, Joe Farnsworth, John Allmark, Josh Bruneau and Steve Davis.
At Chan’s, she’ll be accompanied by a trio of the region’s top players, Tim Ray, Dave Zinno and Steve Langone.