Glass Spheres – Chris Mondak
Nashville based, composer/bassist, Chris Mondak has played with some of the best across the globe – here he ‘lights it up’ with a quintet that is built to shine on an impressive playlist of originals! Before moving to Nashville, Chris studied at the renowned New England Conservatory (B.M. 2020) working with Cecil McBee, Dave Holland, and Bob Moses. Prior to that, Chris trained with Larry Gray.
Chris has performed with Wycliffe Gordon, Dave Douglas, Wayne Escoffery, Shelly Berg, Marvin Stamm, Jeff Hamilton, Jesus Molina, and Daniel LeClaire. Chris has toured extensively throughout the U.S., and has played in Australia, Mexico and Panama, and toured twice in China. Chris has performed at venues such as Birdland, Bop Stop, Jazz at Lincoln Center-Shanghai, Danilo’s, Carnegie Hall, and Rudy’s.
Chris Mondak, Bass
Hunter Smith, Sax
Gabe Feldman, Piano
Lindon McCarty, Guitar
Chris Broomhead, Drums
Venezuela-born and now Nashville-based Chris Mondak, 24, is building upon a sturdy reputation in upward motion. Here, he steps out as a leader of an impressive young quintet, venturing assuredly over Mondak’s well-crafted compositions, though not breaking particularly new ground. Glass Spheres was recorded in a single day in Nashville, old-school style, and has an infectious and organic live feel without additives (apart from the occasional effect from guitarist Lindon McCarty.)
Album opener “Low” hits the ground running at an easy, steady swinging pace, introducing the fluid aplomb of tenor saxophonist Hunter Smith and pianist Gabe Feldman. An offbeat structural concept sneaks into the album’s highlight, “Oath Keeper,” reportedly inspired by a Game of Thrones episode. In the introduction, teasingly loose layers of Mondak’s scampering bass, a simple Mingus-y sax motif and piano murmurings in the margins congeal into drummer Chris Broomhead’s bright, slap-happy groove. Hints of the earlier elements fly in and out in a happy mesh, and the tune ends with sax abruptly fluttering into the wings, a welcome raggedy edge. “Blume” is an intriguing almost-waltz.
“Juicy Red” commences with that rarity in jazz, a fade-in, as if the party is already underway when we arrive, fashionably late. Guitarist McCarty summons up his finest solo of the date, taking some enticing harmonic liberties around the changes. Closing out the easygoing but also engaging album, Mondak heads over to New Orleans, in spirit, for the second-line grooving “Hats Off.” In a final winking twist, the band gets a jolt of accelerando on the offramp.
-Josef Woodward for DOWNBEAT
Born in Venezuela, educated by Dave Holland and now living in Nashville, the still wet behind the ears jazzbo knows how to swing and groove and move things along with the best of them. A tasty outing that seems to have been made for laid back evenings with adulterated coffee drinks at hand, it’s amazing how a 24 year old can have deep enough chops that you feel like an adult just for listening. Catch a rising star, now.
Swing pulsed bassist Chris Mondak leads a deft team of Hunter Smith/sax, Gabe Feldman/p, Lindon McCarty/g and Chris Broomhead/dr through a collection of bopping originals. Mondak sets the pace on his soft intro for “In Sleep” that links in suavely with Broomhead before Smith’s tenor agonizes to the climax, while his nimble fingers cut out a groove for McCarty’s electric Coryell-styled tone on the snappy “Oath Keeper”. Smith has a beefy, full bodied sound for the muscular “Low” and does some fun yackety sax work during “Hat’s Off”. Feldman taps into his inner Red Garland for an uptown, Tin Pan Alley styled “Juicy Red” with the team following McCarty’s lead on a bluesy country western’d “The Only One”. The team has a healthy foot in the tradition of alluring tone and tempo, but also with a mischievous sense of playfulness, keeping the tunes and deliveries fresh. Give this one a try!
-George Harris for Jazz Weekly
…Twenty-four-year-old Chris Mondak is just a few years removed graduating from the New England Conservatory and the bassist is wasting little time flexing his skills as a bassist, composer and bandleader.
For Glass Spheres he assembles a quintet comprised of old Conservatory classmates – plus an alum from the equally prestigious University of North Texas – and made a record that applies youthful exuberance to jazz traditions. As a bassist, Mondak’s presence is felt even if you’re not consciously aware of it, elevating his bandmates and not dominating over them.
As a leader, Mondak accurately sees ‘tradition’ not as a monolithic style but a number of historical sub-genres that are diverse and are truly representative of jazz only collectively. He obviously knows this because Glass Spheres is a menagerie of jazz’s different shades, from bop to avant-garde, with everything in-between. But he saves the most festive slice of jazz for last, the subject for this video.
“Hats Off” is that riotously fun New Orleans second line jaunt that dares you to keep your body from swaying to it. Everyone gets in on the action: saxophonist Hunter Smith, then keyboard man Gabe Feldman, followed by guitarist Lindon McCarty get their spicy licks in before Chris Mondak and drummer Chris Broomhead dig deep into that Mardi Gras groove.
-Something Else Reviews
The 24-year-old Venezuelan-born bassist and composer Chris Mondak presents his latest offering of exciting new jazz on the varied Glass Spheres, offering an intriguing and absorbing selection of originals that explores a range of styles from swing, pop and bebop to avant-garde. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Mondak and his band have become a regular feature in Nashville’s burgeoning jazz scene after a brief history of performing in venues from Cleveland to Chicago and New York as well as internationally including in Panama and China.
Anchoring a standard rhythm section of piano, bass and drums, Mondak augments the musical diversity by including guitarist Lindon McCarty and Hunter Smith on the tenor saxophone, forming a quintet of gifted young players with pianist Gabe Feldman and Australian drummer Chris Broomhead rounding out the cast.
The seven-piece repertoire kicks off with the sparkling bebop burner “Low” featuring sprite solo moments from each member of the band. The following “Oath Keeper” takes the sound in a swinging direction playing hard and fast inspired by an episode of the TV show Game of Thrones. In contrast, “Brume” is lighter and melodic and the only balladic-style piece of the set.
Turning to a less traditional number, “In Sleep” is a haunting tune with a hard percussive overtone and not much in melody; a short and introspective piece of music. “Juicy Red” returns the group to a more modern and contemporary sound worthy of repeated spins. The mid-tempo romp of “The Only One” and the slight New Orleans-tinged sound of the finale, “Hats Off,”closes out a session of impressive new material from Mondak.
One of the talented young lions of the jazz world today, Mondak’s diverse compositions on Glass Spheres makes for an engaging musical experience.
-Edward Blanco for All About Jazz