Jazz interview with jazz singer Mon David. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Mon David: – I grew up in the Philippines and my first musical awakening ( I was about 5 years old) was hearing my parents sing a duet of a filipino love song in family gatherings which then grew into listening to tunes and classics from the great American songbook.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
MD: – My sound developed through listening to the great artists like Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jon Hendricks, Mark Murphy and many more iconic singers.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
MD: – A big bulk of it is achieved by listening to various records-study them, transcribe the parts that help you understand more all the elements involved in coming up with a great piece of music.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
MD: – Influences are always good and they should continue inspiring one’s artistic vision. The true goal is to develop an individual style and come up with your own identifiable distinct sound.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
MD: – I make sure everything is set as far as the song choices are concerned, although the line-up/sequence is always flexible. I’m quite particular about the spontaneity of it all which makes the whole thing exciting for everyone involved-the musicians and the audience. I try to always honor and acknowledge those intuitive moments that happen in the set and the process involve body, mind and spirit.
These are the three things I value, and nurture to experience higher and deeper fulfillment in performing and creating live music.
JBN: – Ism is culled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?
MD: – The more you perform, the more venues you get to explore small or big…the more you collaborate with various musicians,the better it is for you develop your chops and expand as an artist/singer/musician. Through the years I feel I’ve gained a certain level of confidence and knowledge that had been acknowledged and appreciated by different audiences. I’m humbled and I continue learning…
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
MD: – I think an artist’s soulfulness is inherently a natural thing and is further enhanced by intellect and intuition…
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
MD: – I have to be fulfilled and satisfied first with what I’m doing to be able to present and share it with the audience. In other words, the source comes first.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
MD: – He is the 1st universe which then becomes the 2nd universe as he collaborates and create with the musicians. The process then evolves into a third universe which involves the audience. The 3 universes in music making!
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
MD: – In one of my earlier live performances, I’ve experienced getting distracted by a commotion in the crowd which made me forget the lyrics of the song I was singing! Intuitively I just found myself improvising with different non-sensical syllables, rhythmic phrases which surprised the listeners in positive ways. It was an awakening in vocal improvisation which I started to enjoy and love!
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
MD: – To me it’s not just about the standard tunes. Even some of the current tunes can be used as vehicles for jazz musicians to improvise on. This wonderful art form is about freedom and having the courage and conviction to express one’s vision and views about life,love, creed and anything under the sun as long as it’s honest and it comes from heart…
To be able to share these with the young students would be special especially the idea that it should all be done with joy!
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
MD: – He’s right about music being the spirit or the source of one.
Gives one a purpose and keeps him in touch with his innermost feelings.
For live performances to continue and flourish even more. Nothing can replace the deep and beautiful human connection that is achieved in live settings—live musicians doing what they do best in front of a live audience!
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
MD: – Keith Jarret, Bill Evans, Brad Melhdau…
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
MD: – The message of brotherhood and respect for fellow human beings, peace and harmony and love that the music brings to people – songs that move and touch people’s hearts-songs that deal with the human experience and condition…
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
MD: – I’d like to experience being based in Europe and explore the music scene there-meet jazz music lovers, collaborate with brother musicians in that part of the world ! I know it’ll be exciting in many ways.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan