While many musical units are formed with a specific agenda, the jazz duo of Typhanie Monique, vocals, and Neal Alger, guitar, came about mostly by chance. With a background that contains R&B icons Tina Turner and Lionel Richie from her mother's listening habits, Typhanie came to discover jazz in her teenage years. After studying jazz vocal technique in college, Monique moved to Chicago and formed a successful funk/acid-jazz group Peking Turtle and performed at many venues in the midwest. Neal too eventually embraced jazz by his late teens but came into it from a different angle; Neal grew up listening and performing hard rock/progressive rock. Chicago became home for Alger after college as well, and he freelanced with local jazz luminaries and fronted his own trio.
While in search of a guitarist for a particular gig, Monique met Alger and they began a musical courtship that has lasted ten years thus far. As the two performed together in a quartet setting, they began to realize that their musical kinship went beyond straight-ahead jazz and included genres that were popular in their youth, namely R&B/Soul and Pop/Rock. Seemingly out of nowhere, a local venue Pops for Champagne asked Typhanie and Neal to peform solely as a duo for Monday night residency. After several years of thoroughly enjoying the process of honing duo arrangements of their favorite songs, jazz or otherwise, Alger and Monique decided to embark in earnest on the duo journey by documenting their musical magic onto disc, the result being 2004's INTRINSIC.
INTRINSIC showed the jazz world that Monique and Alger could deftly move from swing to R&B/hip-hop grooves, then on to latin rhythmic feels, and back again while always maintaining improvisational integrity. A case in point: "Song For My Father" is handled in James Brown-fashion with a fast funk groove which transforms into a furious samba at the bridge. Despite the non-traditional treatment, however, both Typhanie and Neal turn in fine solos which enhance rather than detract from the solid rhythmic underpinning of the tune. Indeed, the duo's versatility on INTRINSIC has led Cadence magazine to write "the duo combines tradition with heartfelt passion and innovation".
While Typhanie and Neal often perform as a duo, they are certainly not opposed to inviting other talented musicians to share in the music-making. On the duo's second disc, IN THIS ROOM, released in 2007, Chicago-based bossa nova star Paulinho Garcia makes a brilliant appearance on the duo's Brazilian-oriented version of the Jackson 5 classic "Never Can Say Goodbye". Paulinho lends his subtle yet ultimately captivating vocals and guitar to the track, contributing beautifully while also blending seamlessly into the duo's unique musical world. IN THIS ROOM is also not without jazz warhorses like the opener of the disc, Ellington's "Caravan" , which "shows the pair in perfect union, with Monique soulfully scatting as Alger paints wah-wah effected shapes" (Downbeat magazine).
Fast forward to late 2008 and one finds the duo continuing to embrace tradition and modern ideas simultaneously but this time in the songbook of holiday ditties. In the holiday spirit of an inclusive 'musical family', YULETIDE GROOVE, the newest project from Alger and Monique, features many special guests including rising Hammond B3 organ star Tony Monaco. Monaco brings an infectious beat, a rock-solid swing, and warm vocals to the chestnut "Baby It's Cold Outside" while Monique revels in Monaco's vitality, turning in an inspired vocal performance. A horn trio of trumpet, sax, and trombone brings a lush but not overly sentimental flavor to Vince Guaraldi's "Christmastime is Here" and the classic "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree". The sultry sexiness of "Santa Baby" is beautifully enhanced by a cha-cha arrangement which features the contagious musical exuberance of latinos pianist Darwin Noguera and trumpeter Victor Garcia.
Unafraid to venture away from the same instrumentation and conservative musical ideas embraced by so many jazz groups in these times, the duo of Typhanie Monique and Neal Alger forge ahead with a unique and fun musicial vision that emphasizes groove, experimentation, and soul. Their three strong discs, supported by nationwide live performances, radio airplay, and favorable press, showcase the duo's individuality in grand fashion.