Picture description: upright and honest

By Stefan Pieper


According to John Menegon, bassist and bandleader born in Canada but currently living in New York, the blues is neither a dogma nor a defined genre. On his new record Blew By Blues the style of playing isn’t continuous because the influences and cultural imprinting of Menegon’s chosen home are way too colorful. Ultimately, only the personal message from deep within counts. 


John Menegon descended from Montreal’s Jazz scene and feels at home in New York since the 1980ies. Among his Canadian companions was guitarist Sonny Greenwich and saxophonist Pat LaBarbera. In New York, Jack DeJohnette, Paul Bley and especially Dewey Redman were leading him in his music career. While being the bass player in Redman’s band for a long time John Menegon was merited as a teacher, too conducting as well classes and workshops as initiating the online course “History of Jazz and Rock”.

All these activities are mirrored in his musical wealth of experience which is indisputable on his current album Blew By Blues. Menegon is a very genuine and unsophisticated musician, there have been neither vain gimmicks for the production nor the need for pretentious project ideas or concepts. His way of music is to compose with his whole soul and be present to the fullest while playing. In this regard, he and his band members have a lot to say – and this always emerges from their inner self’s. For this, an extremely agile, enthusiastically practised combo jazz is the ideal medium.

As the name refers, the title song has the blues – but the basic mood is deduced to an ageless, swinging, modal piece of jazz. Menegon’s bass play comes along strongly grounded and appears like a reliable, elastic transmission belt. Wonderfully clear, brilliant and in long breathing routes Joel Frahm hooks up on his tenor and soprano saxophone. Wide awake and with cunning syncopes pianist Frank Kimbrough inserts himself who shares the art of omission with percussionist Steve Williams.

Such virtues continue in the other eight tracks. Do not think that the album carries on with a straight-ahead jazz style. This would underestimate Menegon’s potential which is inspired by sounds and emotions since well-played jazz can be compared to a sponge absorbing everything. In respect thereof, the band acts wonderfully intuitive. This is expressed within the impressionistic song “First Touch”. A delicate piano play breathes into a soft crescendo – then vocals mix into, which extend to a sensitive spherical choir without distinctive words. After the intro follows a bold harmony change, then the curtain rises for something new: a bossa-figure picks up speed. Throbbing rim shots on Steve Williams’ drums supply the advance for piano interventions and saxophone improvisations. Clever arrangements conjure a propulsive hearing pleasure. It continues with the classically sung ballad “Hymn for Charlie”, which was dedicated to one of Menegon’s idols, Charlie Haden.

All the more contemporary is “Lonely Heartache”: smooth vocal soul flows into a rap passage. Or should we describe it as the aesthetic of spoken words? – which never falls into the trap of chumming up to modern pop music. It is apparent from the related video that the piece is focused on the passionate plea to never stop striving for the good and humanness in our fleeting world with all its contradictions. John Menegon refers to a quote from Charlie Haden, who demanded this from upright and honest musicians. Blazing fires at protest marches are shown, later the view of the camera lingers on a symbolic signpost somewhere in the US which informs about a protective shelter in case of weather catastrophes. The sign is a symbol for safety and comfort of a protective community – friends, other musicians or simply people who still can be emphatic.

A vibrant, Afro-Cuban number stretches over to eventual Brazilian bossa-rhythms and propels the glorious and effortless musicality of a band which is still considered as an insider tip in this country. 

Current album:

John Menegon Quartet East: Blew By Blues

Menegon’s release “I Remember You” (Inner Circle Music) received a four-star review in Downbeat (April 2014): "Canadian-bred John Menegon is in the line of George Mraz and Michael Moore; a harmonically sophisticated bassist with technical facility who swings hard when it’s called for."

Festival International de Jazz de Montreal with Dewey Redman, Pat Metheny, Matt Wilson: MENEGON met the demands of the music with a combination of relaxed swing and more outward-looking freedom. His solos were the perfect confluence of rhythmic invention and melodic conception. John Kelman, AllAboutJazz-New York

SOUL ADVICE is a group whose objective is to play original music with the emphasis on playing free form compositions as well as exploring the method of odd meters. Compositions are based on traditional technique, such as canons and fugues. Free Bop is a term created by composers/musicians Dewey Redman and Ornette Coleman, whose influence in the avant garde has given us the direction for this exploration. The musicians are John Menegon (bass), John Gunther (reeds), John DiMartino (piano), Mark Dziuba (guitar), Tani Tabbal (drums & percussion).


A fine carpet of swing laid by bassist John Menegon sets the jump-blues feel on Menegon’s tune Bu Bop Bass just right on David Fathead Newman’s latest CD Cityscape #1 on JazzWeek Charts! Andrew Rowan, AllAboutJazz-New York


Menegon’s appropriately named BOO BOP BASS opener on Soul Advice is akin to stepping into a welcoming room on a frigid winter night. Andrew Vélez AllAboutJazz-New York


SEARCH LIGHT John Menegon’s Search Light is not only witty, atmospheric, and thoroughly engaging from one end to the other, it demonstrates the frequent error of perceiving the role of the bass too narrowly. The bass is so often thought of as the engine room of jazz ensembles, providing the rhythmic pulse and harmonic core, that many people find it hard to think of it doing much else. On Search Light, John Menegon shows, without self-indulgence, that the bass can define the character of an ensemble as clearly and fully as any other instrument. The entire project has a surefootedness, a quiet, elegant, muscularity that radiates from Mr. Menegon’s own playing, and that is immediately apparent and compelling. This quiet, engaging setting is ideal for the harmonically adventurous, rhythmically textured, original compositions, played here with innovative instrumentation, notably the voice, bass and flute trio that states the melody on the title track “Search Light” and the bass and saxophone treatment of the melody in “Last Chance,” a clever, distinctive homage to bop. Mr. Menegon is often introduced as “Dewey Redman’s bassist,” and although that’s certainly an association to be proud of, Search Light ought to start people thinking of Mr. Menegon, in his own right, as the master bassist and composer that this recording demonstrates him to be. The band is made up entirely of accomplished players, the best known being, in fact, saxophonist Dewey Redman, who is, once again, brilliant, and wonderful. Contributions are made throughout by drummer Mark McLean, drummer and percussionist Tani Tabbal, guitarist Mark Dziuba, saxophonist and flautist, John Gunther, and on two selections, vocalist Teri Roiger. Steven Robinson, All About Jazz


SEARCH LIGHT: John Menegon’s release Search Light is a powerful example of what happens when the leader of a group is holding a bass. Everything stays funky. Whether it is a slinky down-tempo ballad groove or a straight-up swing, this CD kept me dancing – this is not always the case with jazz. Maybe, it’s simple: keeping the bass nice and high in the mix, or augmenting the rhythm section with two excellent drummers, Tani Tabbal and Mark McLean. Basically, I think it comes down to this: when you have a strong well-rounded bassist like John Menegon composing, arranging, and laying down the serious low-end vibes, the music naturally flows out and around and back again seeking its root. This CD debuts nine of Menegon’s original compositions, which is another refreshing element in this release. It is, of course, essential to know your musical history inside and out. It is a very special thing when you come out of the womb and release your own material to inspire your peers and future listeners alike. John is capable of this and this is certainly owing to his accompanying many legends of jazz. He plays with the groups of renowned tenor saxophonists David “Fathead” Newman and Dewey Redman (who is featured on Search Light). He also released Misterioso with the great Jack DeJohnette on drums, Kenny Burrell on guitar, and Teri Roiger on vocals. As I mentioned before, Dewey Redman (tenor sax) is featured on four tracks (my favorite is track one, “Back Road Shuffle,” a deliciously funky romp) and his deep history in jazz certainly adds a distinctive flavor to the mix. The rest of the group consists of John Gunther (sax/flute), Mark Dziuba filling out the rhythm section on guitar, and the etheric Teri Roiger on vocals. The two tracks featuring Roiger – “Search Light” and “Sacred Ground” – are sublime and dreamlike. “Search Light” has no words and starts with John calling the melody on bass, which is then echoed by Roiger and the guitarist Dziuba. This is a brilliant release full of rich composition and arrangement. Without actually scoring the music for you in this review, the most important thing I can say is, go buy it, and let John Menegon’s Search Light brighten your soul. John Trent, Chronogram


Festival International de Jazz de Montreal 2005, Day 9 (July 8, 2005) AllAboutJazz-New York By John Kelman Metheny’s final By Invitation performance at the small Gesu Theatre — although not his final performance in Montreal this year, as he brings his Pat Metheny Group to the outdoor GM Stage for the final show of their The Way Up tour on Sunday — again took the opportunity to reunite him with a couple of friends that have held a special place for him. First up was a 45-minute set with a man who Metheny introduced as truly one of the most under-appreciated artists in jazz, saxophonist Dewey Redman. Redman, who was seminal in so many groups, including Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet of the early ‘70s, was a key player on Metheny’s own first foray into a more open-ended approach to improvisation, 80/81. And so, with Redman’s own rhythm section of bassist John Menegon and drummer Matt Wilson, Metheny tried to recreate some of the material from that album, including the title track, the beautiful ballad, “The Bat” and the Ornette Coleman piece, “Turnaround.” Redman may be walking a little slowly these days, but when he puts the saxophone to his lips, the tone and broad conception are still there — something he’ll explore tomorrow night when his own quartet takes the staqe at Gesu. His phrasing is sometimes so relaxed that it feels like it might almost fall over, yet it never does. And Metheny, most notably in the theme to “Turnaround,” demonstrated that same kind of behind-the-beat phrasing. When things got a little freer, as they did during “80/81,” Redman demonstrated his ability to extract a number of unique textures from his tenor, including his trademark technique of singing through his horn. A highlight was “The Bat,” which demonstrated Redman’s highly personal conception of lyricism. Always seeming to be just on the edge of something more outré, Redman’s tone and ability to gently push-and-pull with Metheny’s accompaniment proved that once a connection is made between two players, it’s never lost — even with the passage of significant time. Wilson, a leader in his own right and a significant member of a specific New York scene that includes his own group, Arts and Crafts, as well as the Herbie Nichols Project, meshed perfectly — not exactly surprising, but given the little rehearsal the quartet had, his simpatico playing with Metheny, which was rarely overt but more underlying, was immediate. Menegon, also, met the demands of the music with a combination of relaxed swing and more outward-looking freedom. His solos were the perfect confluence of rhythmic invention and melodic conception. Like most of Metheny’s shows this week — with the exception of the marathon Special Encounters performance — the 80/81 Revisited half of the show was over all-too-quickly. The entire group demonstrated that it’s one thing to play free, but it’s another entirely to do so with a strong sense of purpose. Some free players appear to be just pushing air; this group was always heading somewhere.


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upcoming gigs

Jan 26
Cafe Bohemia
New York, NY
Feb 14
Lexington Hotel
New York, New York
Feb 25
Zucher Gallery
New York, NY
Feb 27
Spring Street Gallery
Saratoga, NY
Mar 7
Senate Garage
Kingston, NY

John Menegon Quartet "New Conceptions" Review

FEB 2019 New York City Jazz Record

The wide-open architecture that is Jazz at Kitano played host to echoes of the Jet Age and the sounds were utterly classic (Jan. 12th). These days, George Shearing is sadly overlooked, though 2019 marks his centenary; in his time, the pianist held international celebrity. His decidedly clean, modern jazz tightly arranged with vibraphone/piano/guitar lead eludes today’s rapid-fire attention span, so bassist John Menegon’s tribute was a refreshing antidote. In a set comprising repertoire of the Shearing Quintet, or similar Menegon originals, the ensemble offered airy versions of “Hallelujah”, “Oh Look at Me Now”, “Born to Be Blue”, “The Nearness of You” and “Lullaby of Birdland”. Propelled by the crisp, prodigious drumming of Yoron Israel (who softly took the music well beyond that of forbearer Denzil Best), the band’s time-warp featured solos by thrilling pianist John DiMartino and the leader. But up front was vibraphonist Steve Nelson, an alumnus of Shearing’s ‘80s band. His brilliant shimmer and dead-on melodic command allowed for a dose of nostalgia, but his forwardlooking approach has always recalled Bobby Hutcherson rather than Margie Hyams or Emil Richards, present during the mid-century glory days. A highlight was “Basso Profundo”, composed for Shearing by then-bassist John Levy: Menegon’s melodic line and masterful improv, as well as the band’s unison stop-time sections—a Shearing hallmark—made for a stunning performance. (JP) John Pietaro