Joe Mongelli and the Cape Jazz Crew “Wash Ashore”


The story behind the music

Sometimes one of the things I like best about narratives and music is that they go well together. Joe Mongelli’s story is one of a man who put off becoming a professional musician until he couldn’t stand it anymore. The CD, “Wash Ashore” by Joe Mongelli and the Cape Jazz Crew is the result of Mongelli realizing who he is and who he was meant to be. Suddenly adrift in Cape Cod among jazz veterans, he found his footing.

Mongelli plays flugelhorn and trumpet on the CD, as well as undertaking arranging duties. The tunes featured on the recording will be familiar to audiences. The arrangements and approaches offer something different. The sound, in light of Mongelli’s personal narrative provided in the liner notes, help create a story that will resonate with audiences.


Here, Burt Bacharach’s classic is done in melodic flugelhorn. The result is a bit mournful, but the piano keeps it from being too dark. The piano work is light and crisp; the all-melody arrangement makes for an interesting “take turns” approach between the flugelhorn and piano. At the end, the bass thumps in to bring the song to an emotional close.

Watermelon man

For those unfamiliar with the Herbie Hancock classic, this is a must-hear. Also, listen to the original. This is another element that narratives and music have in common—referring to other works that audiences must take in to appreciate and understand what is being presented in the current work.

The song is groovy and the drums are just clattering enough to give it a loose, relaxed, hip feel. The horns work nicely here, and there are no awkward moments. The piano solo is quick and rhythmic, like dancers’ feet. The trumpet solo is bright and triumphant, while heralding the song’s inherent cool. This is probably the best song on the release.

Makin’ whoopee

Mongelli and his ensemble of musicians take listeners back to 1928, when the ‘20s still roared. This version is smoother. Without playful lyrics (it’s an instrumental), and more straightforward jazz, those familiar with the original will want to revisit the original to see what they might have missed in the instrumentation in that version. I always encourage comparisons—not for correct or incorrect, but just to see what was added, or re-arranged in a new version. The art of comparing makes for a better-informed listener.

At any rate, the light feel of this song illustrates the flirty intention of the original. The trumpet solo adds panache, but the bass solo is particularly swinging and has a nice spirit.

Wash ashore

The phrase “wash ashore” refers to people who weren’t born in water-based communities, like Cape Cod, yet end up there, anyway. It does not sound like a compliment. Even if a person is from elsewhere, he or she might eventually find a place to belong and a job that gives him or her purpose.

Mongelli refers to himself as a “wash ashore.” But with a  talented ensemble of musicians, it sounds as though he has found a place to be, and music to play.



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