A major jazz singer from the Philippines who can sing any type of music with credibility, creativity, heartfelt emotions and wit, Mon David has during the past two years been living and creating waves in the U.S. “It is a major move, starting all over again in the United States , but it was important to do,” says Mon. “America is a wider and bigger playground, one I wanted to explore and learn from.”
Mon David has always been eager to learn as much about music as possible. He grew up listening to Filipino folk songs, the Beatles, pop music of the era and Motown. It was obvious from an early age that he had a strong and appealing voice, and he often sang in school programs. At 15 he took up the drums and the guitar, and some of his earliest performances found him playing drums at the same time that he was singing. “I started out singing pop songs and tunes from musicals. Jazz came to me gradually. A friend gave me a copy of a live Mark Murphy recording and I remember being astounded by what I heard. All of a sudden I discovered what can happen with the human voice when one is courageous.” In addition to Mark Murphy, Mon has cited such influences as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Joe Williams, Jon Hendricks, Kurt Elling and Eddie Jefferson along with the major jazz instrumentalists.
He attended the University of the Philippines College Of Music, majoring in classical voice because he wanted to learn all about voice techniques and production, also taking arranging and composition courses. Mon formed a vocal quartet called Fourplay that was based closely on the Manhattan Transfer, singing the baritone parts. “That was during the time that Manhattan Transfer had become popular with ‘Shaker Song,’ ‘Birdland’ and ‘Java Jive.’ The highpoint was when the Manhattan Transfer was visiting the Philippines for the first time. Our manager was very resourceful and invited them to drop by our club performance and they jammed with us.”
After his school years, Mon David became a session musician for a decade, including seven years as the drummer and vocal coach for APO Hiking Society. He played drums for established pop artists, having opportunities to travel the world. “Many of the artists could do a three or four hour concert of just their own material, which really inspired me to write my own original songs. I learned from other cultures which led to me assessing and reassessing my origins. But I reached a point where I started feeling restless and felt that I should spend time working on jazz and my own music. That did not happen overnight, and I continued doing things on the side including teaching, commercial jingles, occasional sessions, and even acting.” He formed the Philippines ’ Jazz Fiesta and had a chance to perform at the Northsea Jazz Festival. For five years Mon was a member of Ang Fourgettables, a very popular group that combined together comedy and music. He sang in a musical tribute to George Gershwin (“By George”) that also gave him an opportunity to play Porgy in Porgy & Bess. And he recorded four albums (Salamat Sa Mga Alaala, Soulitude, Abe Mu Ku, Life & Times), winning awards (Best Local Jazz Recording, Best R & B Vocal Performance, Best Latin Recording and Best Traditional Vocal Performance) that on a whole paid tribute to his versatility. He also participated on Pamalsinta Quetang Milabas, the first all-Kapampangan CD
A major turning point in his musical life took place when Mon David won the London International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2006 over 106 other contestants from 27 countries. “It gave me the affirmation that this was going to be what I did for the rest of my life.” He soon signed to the Candid label (based in the United Kingdom ), recording My One And Only Love. In a variety of settings on this CD, Mon David is heard scatting a la Mark Murphy on “Let Go” (one of six originals including three sung in his native Kapampangan language), accompanying himself on guitar during an intimate and tender version of “My One And Only Love,” and creating fresh renditions of such standards as “Skylark,” “Waltz For Debby,” and “Very Early.”
In 2007 Mon David took the plunge and moved with his family to Southern California . Since then he has headlined three times at the Filipino-American Jazz Festival, debuted at the Jazz Bakery, performed with Michael Paulo at the Filipino-American Library (a major annual event), sung at local clubs, and made guest appearances with singer Charmaine Clamor in addition to performing at other events.
Recently, Mon David worked with producer Michael Konik to record a new CD for the FreeHam label. “For me the setup is ideal. With an amazing jazz trio featuring Tateng Katindig (piano) Dominic Thiroux (bass) Abe Lagrimas Jr. (drums), and special guest Justo Almario (sax), we recorded all of the 12 songs in one eight-hour session, which amazed me. Most of the songs were completed in no more than three takes with the majority being in the first take.. Nothing beats the freshness of a take one.” Among the numbers are Mon David’s fresh takes on “Invitation,” “Footprints,” “Some Other Time,” “Never Let Me Go,” “Kailangan Yan!” (a Filipino version of Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t”), and “Moonlight Serenade.” He also debuts his original “Only Once” which has Michael Konik’s English lyrics. This CD, entitled "Coming True", will be released in the Fall and is Mon David’s strongest jazz recording to date.
Mon David, who has unlimited potential, has never lost his enthusiasm for growing and developing. “I often tell my students that I still have a beginner’s attitude; I always want to learn much more. I do not want to categorize myself because I am always evolving. I enjoy singing in every configuration, whether with a big band, a symphony orchestra, a duo or alone playing guitar. The exciting thing about singing jazz is that we get to be spontaneous in our interpretations. I want to do this forever. I’m amazed by the longevity of Tony Bennett’s career. If I could do 50% of what he has done, I will be a happy man.”
Throw it Away
No More Blues
Some Other Time