[Only IN Hollywood] Mon David, Josh Nelson hit The G Spot in LA and astound

Truly gifted musicians transport you to profound heights, inspire you to think, make you appreciate old lyrics deeper and in a new light.

These artists bring you joy and make, um, water droplets suddenly flow in your cheeks because they bring out the sheer beauty and raw power of words or music of creative souls, from Billy Strayhorn to John Lennon, illuminate emotions and bring clarity to love and relationships.

All that Mon David and Josh Nelson delivered and more, not in a grand concert hall or a swanky club but in the back room of a Mount Washington (in Northeast Los Angeles) house converted into an intimate performance space called The G Spot.

Mon David, whose career the columnist Ruben V. Nepales has followed since the singer's lounge band days in Manila, has metamorphosed over the years as one of the world’s best male jazz vocalists.

L. Aviva Diamond

In Alan Goldman’s cozy venue with great acoustics, akin to a warm, inviting living room but with a grand piano, lights, and the works, a small group of music lovers, seated in chairs and sofas, were treated by Mon and Josh on June 26 to an exceptional evening that, by virtue of its excellence, might as well have been performed at the Carnegie Hall or any of the world’s best jazz clubs.

In a breathtaking set of pieces mostly from their new album, DNA (David/Nelson/Agreement), Mon and Josh took us to rarefied heights in that small room. I dare say Mon is one of the world’s best male jazz vocalists. In fact, he won the first London International Jazz Competition in 2006.

Josh, whom my wife Janet and I watched for the first time, has several jazz solo albums to his credit. The jazz piano genius was hailed by jazz critic Chuck Berg as a “brilliant young player whose virtuosity suggest the urbane yet bluesy tradition of Oscar Peterson and Gene Harris.”

Josh Nelson, who was the late Natalie Cole’s pianist for several years and toured the world with her, was a marvel to watch on the piano, with such emotion flowing visibly from his face to his fingers nimbly tinkling the keys.

L. Aviva Diamond

The California State University, Long Beach alum, who is also a composer, arranger, teacher and an aspiring screenwriter, was the late Natalie Cole’s pianist for several years and toured the world with her.

Paying tribute to Duke Ellington, Bill Evans and all those cool cats, Mon and Josh – thoroughly in sync even as they improvised, elevated us in musical rhapsodies.

Mon, sometimes sounding like the most expressive, haunting saxophone, and Josh, a marvel to watch on those keys (such joy from his face to his fingers nimbly tinkling those keys), moved the intimate audience into hushed appreciation of  the genius on display and broke into vigorous applause and cheers at the end of solos and pieces.

How wonderful that on my first time ever to watch musicians in person after more than a year, Mon and Josh perfectly reminded me how transcendent a terrific musical performance can be. It felt very good to actually be there and watch a live performance, which was also streamed via YouTube, especially of such top caliber music artists.

The talented pair made me appreciate and see in a new light the lyrics of old standards and newer songs. They moved me to ponder this messy, perplexing blessing we call life even as I was enraptured by the songs. Damn it, I had to discreetly wipe away tears suddenly streaming down my face a few times.

In their first time to perform a show with an in-person audience since the pandemic began, Mon David and Josh Nelson reminded jazz aficionados how transcendent a live musical performance can be.

L. Aviva Diamond

The evening’s unforgettable set included these gems: “Straight No Chaser/Billie’s Bounce/Puro Bukas Na Lang!,” “You Must Believe in Spring,” “Devil May Care,” “Scars,” “In Praise of Bill Evans: I Remember Bill/Very Early/Waltz for Debby,” “Duke & Billy,” “Lush Life,” “Four,” “Imagine” and “Here’s to Life.”

At one point, Mon dedicated Pat Metheny’s “Always and Forever” to Ann David, with whom he just celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary. Mon, whose career I followed since his band days at the Cusco Lounge in Manila, added the beautiful lyrics to the instrumental piece.

Even Benard Ighner’s lyrics in “Everything Must Change,” as performed by Mon and Josh, had a profounder impact on me. I listen to Randy Crawford’s version almost daily but Mon musically invoking the lyrics, accompanied by Josh on the grand piano, made me see the song in a deeper light:

Everything must change,

Nothing stays the same.

Everyone must change

Nothing stays the same.

Even these seemingly mundane words lifted me up:

There are not many things

In life you can be sure of.

Except

Rain comes from the clouds,

And sun lights up the sky,

And hummingbirds do fly.

More meaningfully, these lyrics from Allan Sherman and Albert Hague’s (music) “Did I Ever Live?”:

Is it too late to ask:

Did I ever love?

Did I ever give?

Did I ever really live?

At The G Spot, from left: Cesar de la Fuente, Mon David, Louie Reyes, Josh Nelson and the columnist, Ruben V. Nepales.

Ruben V. Nepales

Simple lyrics, yes, but just like how Mon and Josh performed in  “the minimalist musical format – vox and grand piano” (Mon’s words), these two artists of the highest level soared to the grandest of heights.

Bravo, Mon and Josh! – Rappler.com

Ruben V. Nepales

Ruben V. Nepales is an award-winning journalist whose honors include prizes from the National Entertainment Journalism Awards, a U.S.-wide competition, and the Southern California Journalism Awards, presented by the Los Angeles Press Club.

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