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New album from vocalist Mon David

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    Posted: 15 Sep 2020 at 8:38pm

Not many people would be brave enough to leave behind a lucrative career and uproot their family to follow their dream, but that's exactly what MON DAVID (pronounced moan da-VID)did. The vocalist, composer, arranger, and musician, who brought his family from the Philippines to the U.S. in 2007 to pursue a career as a jazz vocalist, has become a popular mainstay on the Southern California music scene. Don Heckman says, "The Filipino American singer is that rarity; a male jazz vocalist with a distinctly original style of his own - a remarkable voice able to leap octaves in a single bound, combined with a world class scat singing style."
David is now releasing DNA, a duo project featuring JOSH NELSON, the highly respected pianist, composer, and arranger, who has performed with some of the most respected names in jazz, including Kurt Elling, John Pizzarelli, Benny Golson, Sheila Jordan, John Clayton, George Mraz, Jeff Hamilton, Dave Koz, and Peter Erskine. Nelson also toured with legendary vocalist Natalie Cole for six years, and he continues to present his Discovery Project, an immersive, multi-media presentation that combines his original music with performance art and art installations. Nelson launched The Discovery Project in 2011 with the release of Discoveries, his sci-fi themed CD, followed by subsequent releases in the series, Exploring Mars (2015), The Sky Remains (2017), and The Discovery Project Live in Japan (2020).
DNA is David's fourth U.S. release. It follows This Is All I Ask (2015, Dash-Hoffman/Human Connection), which featured his collaboration with pianist and composer Theo Saunders and the late sax phenom Zane Musa; "SoloMon" (2012, Orange Room Records), a solo effort featuring David accompanying himself on acoustic nylon guitar; and his 2009 American debut, Coming True, which featured top Los Angeles-based musicians, including pianist Tateng Katendig and saxophonist Justo Almario.
On DNA, Davidwanted to explore the music stripped down to its essence. David, who also plays guitar, piano, and drums, says, "For me, the human voice is the primary instrument for expressing the emotional depth of a song, but the piano is a close second. That's why I wanted to work with Josh. His solo performances are terrific, but when he plays with a singer or other instrumentalists, his music has an almost symphonic quality. He's also very spontaneous, and he listens so closely. I realized we really didn't need charts for these songs, because we were able to collaborate and create them on the spot. That's why I named the album DNA, which is an acronym for David-Nelson-Agreement. It's a real conversation between the two of us."
David speaks three languages, Tagalog, which is the national language of the Philippines, English, which is widely taught, and Pompango, a language spoken in the northern part of the Philippines where David was born and raised. He began singing as a child and often sang in school programs. He started playing the drums and guitar at age 15, and sang pop tunes and musical theater songs, often while playing the drums. He was introduced to jazz when a friend gave him a copy of a Mark Murphy recording, which influenced his decision to attend the highly respected University of the Philippines College of Music, where he studied classical voice, arranging, and composition. While in school, he also formed a vocal quartet called Fourplay, for which he sang the baritone parts.
After graduating, David worked as a session player, playing drums and touring with many pop stars. He also worked with several local bands, playing pop, Motown, and Broadway tunes. His talents as a vocalist and drummer brought him to the attention of the APO Hiking Society, a very popular music group that toured around the world, including the U.S., and recorded several albums. Despite his commercial success, David was feeling unfulfilled playing pop music.
Then, in 2006, David won the London International Jazz Vocal Competition, beating 107 other contestants from 27 countries. The award afforded him major jazz club dates and a recording contract with London-based Candid Records, for which he recorded My One and Only Love (2006). With a prestigious international award and a new album under his belt, David decided it was time to take the plunge and move to the U.S. to immerse himself in the American jazz scene.
David and family settled in Los Angeles to be near his wife's family, who resided there for many years. He quickly started performing in clubs all around Southern California as well as headlining several times at the Filipino-American Jazz Festival held at Catalina Jazz Club, the premiere jazz room in Los Angeles.
For DNA, David chose a program of mostly standards. He opens the album with the lesser-known "DidI Ever Really Live," which came from an obscure, short-lived revue in the early 60s. David liked the message of the song, recorded by Carmen McRae and Joe Williams. "You Must Believe in Spring" is an old favorite of David's. He says, "It took just a few minutes for Josh and me to come up with the arrangement for this song. It just seemed to flow out of us." "Lush Life" is another favorite of David's. David created the basic arrangement for "Devil May Care," turning it into a free form samba with lots of space for him and Nelson to improvise and work off each other's ideas. David considers "Here's to Life" a personal anthem.
David, like most musicians, is a huge fan of Bill Evans and pays tribute to him with the medley "In Praise of Bill Evans: I Remember Bill/Very Early/Waltz for Debby." David decided to sing "If You Never Come to Me/Skylark" as a medley because he feels they share the same sentiments and work well together musically. His tribute to Monk and Bird, "Straight No Chaser" and "Billie's Bounce," for which he wrote additional Filipino lyrics, were joined as a medley because they're his favorite jam pieces. David chose Lennon's "Imagine" to reflect his personal philosophy, and he sings "Blame It on My Youth" because it's one of his close friend's favorite songs. "I Chose the Moon" is a soulful composition by two prolific Los Angeles-based musicians, composer/pianist/vocalist Bill Cantos and vocalist/lyricist Mark Winkler. Pat Metheny's "Always and Forever" has a spiritual feel for David, and he was inspired to add his original lyrics.
Mon David sings straight from the heart. He is emotive without being cliched or pedantic. A trained instrumentalist as well as a vocalist with a wide range and excellent vocal control, his singing is endlessly improvisational and creative. His collaboration with Josh Nelson on DNA demonstrates that an entire symphony of sounds can be created by two seasoned, master musicians.
DNA was released on August 7, 2020 and is available online everywhere.
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