Artist/s: Monique di Mattina. Monique di Mattina (vocals and piano), Eamon McNelis (trumpet), Paul Williamson (tenor sax and clarinet), Andrew Hammon (trombone), James Sherlock (guitar), Howard Cairns (bass), Andrew Swann and Marty Brown (drums and percussion)
Label: Jazzhead HEAD214
Reviewed by Gavin Franklin
“This is a CD that contains a mixture of old and new songs with an old-fashioned vibe.”
Monique di Mattina (vocals and piano), Eamon McNelis (trumpet), Paul Williamson (tenor sax and clarinet), Andrew Hammon (trombone), James Sherlock (guitar), Howard Cairns (bass), Andrew Swann and Marty Brown (drums and percussion)
Monique di Mattina has put together an album of whimsical songs, some tongue-in-cheek and several with a party feel, but all are infused with her indubitable musicianship.
The band features Eamon McNelis on trumpet, Paul Williamson on tenor sax and clarinet, Andrew Hammon on trombone, James Sherlock on guitar, Howard Cairns on bass and Andrew Swann and Marty Brown on drums and percussion. All contribute appropriately to the New Orleans flavour of a majority of the songs – which appears to be an intended ‘theme’.
Bob Dylan’s All I Really Want to Do receives a thorough re-make. Although recognisable as a cover of the original, di Mattina’s version is harmonically richer as she transforms the song into a more modern pop song.
The old Edith Piaf hit La Vie en Rose begins with a brief prelude (it is not as substantial as a ‘verse’ but serves the same purpose.) The song is then given a straight-ahead treatment.
Change It Up has a ‘second-line’ feel about it. It consists of a short riff, repeated for the duration of the song and is the first of three songs in a row written by di Mattina. If I Knew Then and Love Is Lonely are more conventional ‘ballads’. All three are attractive little works that show off the pianist/vocalist’s song-writing chops in addition to her considerable pianistic ability.
I had difficulty, at first, understanding why, in 2016, anyone would record the title track, Everybody Loves Somebody. An old song, it became associated with entertainer Dean Martin after he gave up slapstick comedy as Jerry Lewis’s partner and hosted a variety TV show away back in the 1960s and ‘70s. It was his signature tune. This gave me certain prejudices that di Mattina’s performance erased somewhat and I was able to regard it differently as a result. Eventually, I decided that its ‘retro’ character gives it a relationship with the character of some of the other songs on the album. Di Mattina performs it sincerely, giving it a second life in my memory.
This is followed by two further pop songs, one by Deborah Harry (One Way or Another) and the other (Alice) written by di Mattina. I’m Through with Love is track 8, then the set winds up with The Acorn Song. Both are strong songs and they are given attractive treatments by di Mattina.
Overall, this album has taken some time to make its impression on me, but after repeated hearings, I now have a better appreciation of its considerable strengths. One of these is Monique di Mattina’s wonderful piano-playing and the competence of the musicians who work with her. Even the ‘new’ songs are in an old-fashioned style and two of the ‘covers’ have been around for many years so there is a retro atmosphere about the disc. This is quite an attractive quality. In addition to her piano-playing, di Mattina’s voice has a pleasant quality, her pitching is accurate and she shows an excellent ‘feel’ for her chosen style. She ‘inhabits’ the songs and this gives them qualities beyond what one might expect given earlier knowledge of them as performed by other artists.