The Spinners

My One and Only Love (Mon David, 2006)

In Dodo Dayao, Jazz, OPM on December 7, 2010 at 4:13 am

The stock of vocal prowess is curiously alive in these parts, as if it alone feeds the emotive brunt of a performance. It doesn’t, but you knew that. Mere vocal prowess is the province of karaoke and yet another singing contest. That’ll do for the throng, but the croon makes you really swoon out of pipe technique. Sing for royalties and you have to at least have that. Singing jazz for royalties is trickier for all the presumed pedigree behind the cut-above entitlement. Technique’s more of a given here. Technique plus taste plus imagination plus hopefully a little risk—that’s the full arsenal.  What grabs me here first, though, is vocal prowess.  Mon David’s a bit of a warhorse so the machinery in his throat’s broken in—the technique’s down, if you will—never prey to showboat or preen or pander, well-oiled . . . a little too well-oiled. Half the time, the delivery attains a kind of metrosexual fastidiousness with all the manners of a charm school honor student—courteous and inoffensive and well-behaved, not a stitch out of place, not a wrinkle, like it’s been rehearsed so many times the emotion has been leeched out of it. Pure function, almost bland. And that deep register does crave some loosening up, some wild flurry, some breakage and wear, some feel. On one hand, you’re happy that he’s in such a cheery mood, but for the positive aura to matter to me, and to matter as jazz, it needs measures of levity, specificity, consequence. “Let Go” oversimplifies self-help pep talk into a string of non sequiturs that cries out for a heart on its sleeve to pump blood in its pulse and give it context. The refashioned Tommy’s Toon of “Yan Ang Pinoy” is there as a musical idea, not quite there as music, far less there as a song—with more of that superfluous ethnocentric fist-pump everybody should all give a rest. And the Kapampangan prayer “Abe Mu Ku” really needs an entire record for its anthropological goodwill to blossom and calcify. But this isn’t jazz-pop-for-idiots. Not the Jay Graydon-era Al Jarreau the back sleeve photo portends, not Bublé clonage. The full arsenal’s here. And it has pedigree. The cut-above entitlement is more than just that trophy on his mantle. David digs deep for his repertoire (Hoagy, Gary Granada, Dietz & Schwartz, Bill Evans), goes out on limbs. Props for trying, then. And the record is not without its pockets of bristle. Specifically, but ironically, on his trifecta of chestnuts—My One and Only Love and Skylark and Waltz For Debby. He doesn’t do much with these, you see. Just sings the hell out of them. Some days, most days, that’ll do.

–  Dodo Dayao

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