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CD/LP/Track Review

Ben Monder: Excavation

By Published: June 1, 2000
Guitarist Ben Monder inhabits an ethereal world where jazz is created for deep space. Setting aside typical jazz meters and swing he plays with a detached consciousness. This recording, his second for Arabesque, follows up Monder’s trio recording Dust. Monder augments the trio of bassist Skuli Sverrisson (Pachora, Chris Speed, Human Feel), drummer Jim Black (Tiny Bell Trio, Tim Berne, Pachora, Human Feel) with vocalist Theo Bleckmann. This quartet’s previous recording, No Boat (1997) on Canada’s Songlines label, like Excavation was an ambitious recording fashioning a new jazz direction.

Monder’s approach to music is often abstract, opting for mood over melody. His solo tracks remind me of Bill Frisell without the Americana. He sustains notes through a rhythmic dexterity and a ever patient pace. His solo take on “You Are My Sunshine” is Ry Cooder sparse, almost transforming the happy anthem to a blues. Bleckmann’s vocals, made up mostly of wordless hornlines, can be at times nearly chanting and at others a counter balance to Monder’s guitar lines. Bleckmann reminds one of Sting, but Sting with a good voice. The recording is wrapped around “Hatchet Face” with its almost long-play rock anthem qualities. Monder sheds his contemplative nature to shred a bit of guitar and exercise some demons. It’s not hard to follow Monder’s most creative lead.

Track List:Mistral; Luteous Pangolin; Ellenville; Bunny Manitoba; Hatchet Face; Etching; Windowpane; You Are My Sunshine

Personnel: Ben Monder

Record Label: Arabesque Jazz

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream



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