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Chris Mondak: Eternal Youth

Jerome Wilson By

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Chris Mondak is a 21-year-old bassist who has already racked up some impressive jazz experiences, studying with Cecil McBee and Dave Holland, and playing with the likes of Jeff Hamilton, Dave Douglas and Wycliffe Gordon. His first CD is mostly made up of his own compositions, which vary between conventional acoustic jazz motifs and funkier electric fusion grooves.

Two of his originals are actually based on jazz standards; "Voyage Maid" is a speeded-up variation on Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" with Mondak's bass propelling the thick thrust of a three horn front line. "Warriorld" is a chatty contrafact of "Moody's Mood For Love," with the rhythm section set at a friendly bouncing tempo. Saxophonist Solomon Alber, trombonist Haoran Li and pianist Federico Nuti all get to spin easy-going solos off that base.

Elsewhere on the mainstream front, "Sweet Lovin'" is the kind of jaunty hard-bop stroller Benny Golson might have written for the Jazz Messengers. It spotlights nice turns from a braying LI and Alber and supple guitar by Carlos Heredia. "Abuelito" is a serene ballad with moaning tenor by Alber and peaceful trumpet by Matt Kelly. "Du Wow" features a fluid, rock-flavored guitar line seeping through a flying boppish melody and breakneck tenor and trumpet solos. The one non-original of the set is "Be Honest with Yourself," a swirling waltz written by Mondak's grandfather, Art Mondak, back in 1955. It is a pretty tune with good trumpet, piano and bass spots but, for some reason, the recording is unbalanced; the rhythm section is pushed to the front and dominates the horn playing. In particular, Kelly's trumpet solo is almost overwhelmed.

"Swords On The Wall" and "Dream Catcher" are Mondak's excursions into the jazz fusion realm with electric bass and piano setting the tone. "Swords" comes out of the mellow "quiet storm" brand of soul, sporting a serpentine ensemble sound, and a round of dreamy, seductive solos. On "Dream Catcher" the horns repeat circular phrases over an infectious Latin beat. This leads to slick, twisty spots for guitar, trombone and Mondak's electric bass. The leader takes his best solo of the set here, plucking bulging, greasy bass lines like Steve Swallow before going into reggae-like spaced out single notes.

Mondak's writing and arranging show promise. His work is familiar but not overly derivative, and his horn deployment is effective, with the trombone often supporting the trumpet and sax. This first CD is solid, pleasing work that proves him adept in a range of jazz styles. His future career should be interesting to follow.

Track Listing: Voyage Maid; Sweet Lovin'; Abuelito; Warriorld; Be Honest with Yourself; Swords on the Wall; Du Wow; Dream Catcher.

Personnel: Chris Mondak: bass; Matt Kelly: trumpet; Haoran Li: trombone; Solomon Alber: sax; Federico Nuti: piano; Carlos Heredia: guitar; Gavin Connolly: drums.

Title: Eternal Youth | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Chris Mondak Music

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