Is It In Their DNA by Joel Rothberg

“IS IT IN THEIR DNA” or is it in the stars? If so, then I’m bemused.. I am lost in those stars.. ..bewitched, bothered and bewildered. As Kurt Weill once promised the little lone star, lost on the wind somewhere, he would find and gather it up. Mon David, transplanted from his Phillipines homeland, is that star and he surely has been found, thankfully for all of us to appreciate. 

In his recent CD release “DNA”, he and his colleague Josh Nelson interpret a fine collection of songs both well known and new, many being classics from “The Great American Songbook.” 

If you are a lover of jazz, you need to experience this “feast for the ears”.. and get this new CD release. 

But honestly, listening to this cd, as wonderful as it is, does not prepare the “uninitiated” to Mon David live.. for his amazing originality and innovation. If you’re expecting the usual interpretations of the standards, forget it.. he is truly the epitome of jazz vocal artistry.. both startling and eye opening in his fearless and boldly unapologetic interpretations. 

After they had their CD release online, with the support of producers Cathy Segal Garcia and Dan Davilla, they now also had this 2nd opportunity to celebrate again “live.” Thanks to Vitello’s giving them and us, these precious moments to shine for us on stage.  And they both did shine as bright as stars in some vocal heaven.  I realized, yet again, now why initially, upon first meeting him, I instinctively liked MON DAVID. 

 “Mon David”, is pronounced “moan da-VID.” His humanity, is fully expressed through his soulful singing. He is, especially for these days, a decent and gracious person and this all is communicated to us, his audience, when he begins to sing. Both vulnerable and passionate, the contrasts are what defines him as a singer and performer and presents him, each time to us as dynamic.  His technical excellence is so masterful, he sings in a style that, believe me, only a rare few could do successfully. He constructs “his” reality of each song much like an artist creates a masterpiece starting with only a blank sheet. 

When Mon came on stage and stood up to the mic, was he a lone star lost in the vast firmament of a darkened night sky? Or was he a “dramatic presence” standing in a spotlight in a jazz club? He was both. He was truly a weaver of stories and dreams. 

The 13th is my self-appointed “lucky day” and this great show confirmed that. His repertoire was so varied, I could not believe it.. his versatility was staggering.. going from his percussive, stacatto scatting to suddenly surprising us by his delicate falsetto reaching up into the stratosphere. From songs by Alan Sherman and Abbey Lincoln to “You Must Believe In Spring” by the Bergmans. But my favorite moments were when he and his “wunderkind” colleague Josh Nelson shared two tributes with us, a Bill Evans tribute “I’ll Remember Bill” leading into a medliesque rendering of “Waltz For Debbie” and an original song tribute to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, written by Josh and Mark Winkler.This also became a medley comprising “Prelude To A Kiss” “Life Is Lonely Again” and “Lush Life.” 

As for Josh Nelson.. he’s a much respected pianist-composer-bandleader and he unfurled his tapestry of multitalents for us, delighting us with his complex piano “virtuosity” and original compositions. 

A wonderful evening, not only on the stage but in the audience also, with lovely friends there surrounding us. Nora Paradiso, Cathy Garcia and Dan Davilla of course, both understandably excited. And our friends Beverley Church Hogan, Mark Winkler and Dolores Scocezzi, L’aviva in a sequined black jacket and matador hat and.. “Ohh my goodness.. is that Gary Brumburg over there? Also Mon’s Wife and family were there to share this wonderful achievement with him.