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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Monder: Hydra

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New York-based guitarist Ben Monder has been an active member of the contemporary jazz scene for more than two decades, appearing on over 100 sessions as a sideman for such luminaries as Paul Motian, Maria Schneider and Kenny Wheeler. Despite such prestigious collaborations, Monder has maintained a relatively low profile as a solo artist, with less than half a dozen records as a leader or co-leader to his credit; Oceana, the last release under his own name, was issued by Sunnyside Records back in 2005.When left to his own devices, Monder unveils a singular penchant for juxtaposing progressive ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jerome Sabbagh / Ben Monder / Daniel Humair: I Will Follow You

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How do you cook up innovative and inspiring jazz these days? Take a standard quintet and peel away the bassist (time keeper), then eliminate the pianist or chordal steward, and you are left with maybe the purest form of improvisation and interaction: the jazz trio. Saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh's trinity, heard on I Will Follow You, includes guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Daniel Humair.Sabbagh is a French-born tenor/soprano saxophonist who now lives in Brooklyn. His previous discs--the standards sax/bass/drums trio of One Two Three (Bee Jazz, 2009) and quartet session with Monder, Pogo (Sunnyside, 2007)--have both been well-received, though ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Monder / Bill McHenry: Bloom

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The world of improvised music is a wondrous pursuit, but as soon as the word “composition" creeps into the proceedings, it can have a slightly stricter form. How much form begins to curb spontaneity is entirely up to the musicians. In the case of guitarist Ben Monder and saxophonist Bill McHenry's Bloom, thankfully, the form does not disturb the path of forward-thinking creativity. However, there is enough structure to the duo's music for it to have a strict beginning, middle and end. And although it is mostly Lydian in nature, these musicians have given themselves enough room to float, creating ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Ben Monder On the Side: Brian Charette & Mika Pohjola

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Brian CharetteUpsideSteepleChase2009 Mika PohjolaNorthern SunriseBlueMusicGroup2009 There's a reason why, at Ben Monder performances, the guitar geeks sit in the first row. He is an outstanding soloist, inventive improviser and composer of highly original and engaging works featured on several of his own recordings. Monder has also proven himself to be the consummate sideman. While Upside is a Brian Charette project, the 30-something organist allows Monder ample room, particularly on original ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Theo Bleckmann & Ben Monder: At Night

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Theo Bleckmann (voice and live electronic processing) and Ben Monder (guitar) have played together in several settings. This time they return as a duo, with Satoshi Takeishi (drums, percussion and laptop) making a presence on five tracks.

There is a fine sense of balance on the recording. Both Monder and Bleckmann have a quirky sense of humor which is transmitted to their music. This is seen in the way they set up the instrumentation and bring in a new twist. They have their serious side manifested in the ethereal beauty that flows through the songs, which does not ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Theo Bleckmann and Ben Monder: At Night

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The cover imagery depicts mesas viewed heavenward towards a threatening yet beckoning night sky. In the foreground, an empty highway envelops two empty stools for any brave two travelers on life's journey to perform an offering to the stars, to the universe, to all, to the night. If ever two musicians were up to the task, it's the flat-out astonishing virtuosi, vocalist Theo Bleckmann and guitarist Ben Monder.

Bleckmann possesses technique so colossal, yet so meticulous, he can seem otherworldly, an android-like embodiment of sci-fi vocalisms, a bodily vessel for that voice. Still, whether accompanied by actual words or not, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Theo Bleckmann/Ben Monder: At Night

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Experiencing the music of vocalist Theo Bleckmann and guitarist Ben Monder isn't so much listening as it is swimming.

Take, for instance, their cover of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's “Norwegian Wood." The Beatles' guiltless romp through sexuality opens with a tidal wave of fuzzy, over-amped guitar and vocal feedback. Bleckman begins, “I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me..." singing the lyrics from the bowels of a submarine, and this one isn't yellow. Monder's tidal wave of sound signals the innocence, Bleckmann calls out from a moonless night's pounding sea. ...

LIVE REVIEWS

John Geggie / Ben Monder / Dylan van der Schyff: March 24, 2007

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John Geggie/Ben Monder/Dylan van der Schyff Geggie Concert Series National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage Ottawa, Canada March 24, 2007

Following the more mainstream (but stellar) show with pianist Nancy Walker and drummer Billy Hart in February, 2007, Ottawa bassist John Geggie headed into edgier, more experimental territory by bringing guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Dylan van der Schyff to the Fourth Stage of the National Arts Center. It was an evening that combined knotty composition with reckless improvisational abandon...and a little country.

Monder has yet to establish ...

LIVE REVIEWS

The New Generation - Vision Festival XI, Angel Orensanz Foundation For The Arts, NYC - Day Five Afternoon, 17 June 2006

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Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 Afternoon | Day 5 Evening | Day 6

Saturday afternoon at the Vision Festival was billed as the New Generation, intending to show that this is not just about a bunch of old guys with a combined age approaching that of Methuselah on the bandstand.

Ras Moshe and the Music Now Unit

The afternoon kicked off in fine style shortly after One pm with Ras Moshe and the Music Now Unit. Moshe (pronounced Mo-shay) was born in New York into a family of saxophonists, and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Monder: Dust

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Guitarist Ben Monder's sophomore effort, originally recorded for Arabesque in 1997 and now reissued by Sunnyside, covers all the ground from free, ambient and discordant to tight, together and melodically upbeat.

Most of Monder's work (in fact, much of his best work) has been as a sideman; he has only released two albums as a leader since this record first came out. A veteran of Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band and Lee Konitz's New Nonet, Monder plays with an old school pedigree in a manner that is ahead of his time.

Monder's trio on Dust includes drummer Jim Black and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Monder: Excavation

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There may be five years and several thousand miles between them, but Ben Monder's Excavation is the mirror image of Bright Side, the most recent album by Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel.

It's a dark mirror, though, cracked and clouded. Both discs feature technically phenomenal musicians, each an adventurous improviser who gives equal weight to precisely arranged, often complex, through-composition--but while Muthspiel's aptly named Bright Side (2006) takes the listener down sunny, well lit paths, Excavation (2000, re-released) heads for edgier, more shadowy corners.

The album opens with the deceptively pretty “Mistral." Wave after wave of lush Monder arpeggios, fingerpicked Spanish ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Day 2 - Ottawa International Jazz Festival, June 23, 2006

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Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5| Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11

The first show on Day Two of the TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival featured a trio of artists ranging from underexposed to near-legendary.

Jon Gordon's performance at the 4 pm Connoisseur Series demonstrated the ability of this thirty-something alto/soprano saxophonist and his trio to take a largely standards-based repertoire, turn it on its side, and re-examine it from a different perspective. A precocious youngster who picked up ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Gestrin / Ben Monder / Dylan van der Schyff: The Distance

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An elaborative collaboration, The Distance--featuring Chris Gestrin (prepared & unprepared piano), Ben Monder (eclectic guitar), and Dylan van der Schyff (percussion)--is an expansive set, demonstrating the instant and infinite affinity possible when like musical minds meet. Recorded at the 2004 Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the CD documents a fast and freely composed concert of chamber jazz.

The opening “Ferns, with Monder's spacious intro of fade-in quartal chords, kicks into “Treacle, a fast-paced note-fest of incisive legatos and descending scalar staircases, followed by “#47, with the tampered timbres of Gestrin's piano evoking the hammerings, clankings, and nail-in-the-pail sound effects of a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Gestrin / Ben Monder / Dylan van der Schyff: The Distance

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Tony Reif, the head of Songlines, conspired with Vancouver International Jazz Festival promoter Ken Pickering to organize a concert featuring invited guest guitarist Ben Monder playing in an improvised trio format with the established duo of percussionist Dylan van der Schyff and pianist Chris Gestrin. Van der Schyff and Gestrin have a history of playing together, but Monder was new to their musical axis. The concert was recorded and two trio improvisations from a rehearsal later that day were added to create The Distance.

Whether or not the trio clicked enough to regroup can only be answered by ...



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