The Mono Trio take many of their musical ideas from the jazz standards of the 1930s and the Broadway theatre inspired compositions from writers such as George and Ira Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, Duke Ellington and Cole Porter.
Specifically, that of the torch singer, a vogue scarcely more easily defined than jazz singing, probably best described as the ability of a singer to tell a story through song with emotional conviction.
The Big Bands of the era employed Torch Singers (Ruth Etting, Billie Holliday, Dinah Shore, Ella Fitzgerald) to sing the slower songs, often when the meal was served during a pause to the dancing.
The word ‘torch’ describes the feeling of being burdened by unrequited love.
Sinatra’s song ‘One More For My Baby’ demonstrates;
‘This torch that I found
Has to be drowned
Or I soon might explode’
Torch songs are often reflections on personal, social or political topics; as well as songs of moods and feelings (such as Autumn Leaves). Often these songs are best performed in intimate nightclubs; consequently, the ideal setting for The Mono Trio.
Another huge influence, Nina Simone, continued the Torch singer legacy, but such was her virtuoso ability on the piano that she was able to reinterpret these songs in a way that gave rise to a music category all of her own!
Ruth Etting’s ‘Love Me or Leave Me’ for example, where Simone added a driving rhythm to the 1928 Walter Donaldson and Gus Khan composition.
The Mono Trio rely on many of Nina Simone’s re-workings as part of their live set. In 2020, they released a live album of her songs – available on Bandcamp.
Mono Trio singer and pianist Stephen Dunwoody’s family has long links to the Broadway and West End musicals. His great uncle Jack Willoughby starred with Fred Astaire in the 1924 production ‘Stop Flirting’.
His daughter Emily Olive Boyd keeps the tradition alive in West End shows such as Dogfight, The Commitments, We Will Rock You and Wicked.
This jazz musical prevalence is revealed in the Mono Trio’s new studio album ‘FILM NOIR’.
From the mystery surrounding a Hollywood Star of the 30s (17575 Pacific Coast Highway) to the desperation of a down and out boxer of the Great Depression (Nobody Wants to Know a Bum).
The lament of a nightclub owner trying to entice a singer back to his venue (Starlight Hotel) is contrasted with (Waiting for Adelaide Hall) – a young man’s fascination with a nightclub singer at the Cotton Club.