Mon David: Coming true in LA
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated October 11, 2009 12:00 AM
Mon David is on a roll these days. He recently released a jazz album in the US titled “Coming True” and is starting to really get noticed.
We scheduled our flight to Los Angeles to make sure that we would catch a concert and album launch at the Catalina Bar in Hollywood on Oct. 4 where our good friend Mon David was to perform. In spite of the two-hour delay leaving Manila, I was happy that we made it.
Mon David is on a roll these days. He recently released a jazz album in the US titled “Coming True” and is starting to really get noticed. He is starting to be played on radio stations across America and critics have raved about his recordings and live shows.
Danny, Boboy and I have witnessed the evolution of Mon David from band singer, drummer, vocal coach and arranger, to recording artist and soloist, and into the compleat musician that he has become. It was Mon David who trained the APO and taught us a great deal of what we know about singing.
His struggles were the same as what all serious musicians worth their salt anywhere in the world go through. In this business, everyone pays his or her dues, and the truth is, the dues are never completely paid. You start off as an unknown, and until the end, whether you make it or not, you will always be proving who you are, even if only to yourself. You put your reputation on the line and earn the respect of your audience with every performance. And no matter how solid your career seems to be, it can go crazy if you don’t develop the right character and mindset to keep you grounded.
We have toured, recorded, performed and rehearsed with Mon many, many times. Our relationship spans decades. As a drummer, he was cool and steady, studious and reliable. He always worked well with the team even if I knew that, although he played our music with gusto, he was swinging to the beat of a different tune.
In truth, Mon simply loves jazz. And he has worked hard to be a jazz artist. Even as he immersed himself in all musical styles and genres, his heart was beating to the syncopated charm of the jazz music he was intoxicated with. I remember him during APO tours hanging around jazz clubs where he would spend his hard-earned money to watch his favorite artists perform.
In 2006, we all wished him well when he joined a worldwide jazz singing contest held in Britain. To everyone’s great joy, Mon won the top prize against some of the best performers in the world, people he listened to and learned from while cutting his teeth in the genre. He beat some of his own mentors and idols.
Soon after, he moved to the US with his family and tried his luck there. It has been a tough three years, singing in tiny clubs and Filipino community functions, audiences who hardly care about jazz. But slowly and surely, he has created a niche for himself. And soon he began to get the recognition that he deserves, not only from Pinoys but from the jazz audience.
There is something romantically artistic about what Mon has done. His is a redemption story that a lot of people, especially artists, can relate to. At over 50, he moves to America and goes for his dream. Three years later, he is beginning to taste success. And the best thing is, he continues to be as curious and creative as ever. It is no surprise that he is growing and blooming in his artistry.
That night at the Catalina bar, Mon David showered his audience with fine, elegant, eclectic and playful jazz. His scatting has always been amazing and that night was no exception. He sang classic pieces in the unique style he has developed through the years — marinated in classic American jazz as delivered by the likes of Kurt Ellig and Tony Bennett with a generous dose of Joe Henderson et al.
He also threw in a lot of Pinoy pride, generously mixing his songs with Tagalog and Kapampangan words amid the doo-wops and the skidadidababebweyas. As comfortable as he was doing an edgy Moonlight Serenade, he just as easily whipped off a Charlie Parker piece with Tagalog lyrics and sang it like it was originally written that way. Mon is simply, as they say in the jazz club world, “The Dopeness”!
The audience sighed, clapped, whistled and shouted “Bravo!” His musicians — Tateng Katindig, bassist Dominic Thiroux and Abe Lagrimas on the drums — were fabulously brilliant. His numbers with Bituin Escalante, Charmaine Clamor and Columbian saxophonist Justo Almario were so magical, the audience cheered loudly.
Watching Mon David weave his music that night, I remembered the moments we had spent together doing APO’s music, and all the times I have watched him sing solo doing his own stuff. He is the artist I have long admired, the artist I want to be, for his dedication, perseverance and great artistry.
That night, Mon showed everyone the mark of a great artist, and that is fearlessness. He was bold and daring, taking off with every song into unknown adlib territory and marvelously landing it all back on terra firma.
The best thing about Mon is that he has not changed. He is still the same guy I’ve know and worked with all these years. While he emanates a constant passion for excellence and high standards in performance, he is never one to belittle or show impatience towards anyone who does not deliver at the same level that he does.
I am happy to know that in his gigs in the US, his Kapampangan and Tagalog songs sometimes get more applause for their uniqueness and freshness than the more recognizable jazz standards. To an idiom as American as apple pie, Mon has managed to inject his own heritage and make it seem so natural. He is an artist who knows how to flow, and that is, after all, what jazz music is all about.
As his album title says so well, Mon David is “coming true.” And the world is listening and applauding.
Mabuhay ka Mon!