Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

309

Ben Monder / Bill McHenry: Bloom

Raul d'Gama Rose By

Sign in to view read count
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 wispy modal paths to pursue throughout their musical sojourn.

Monder usually assumes the role of modal perpetrator, from which the dup leaps off into the unknown. He taunts McHenry with melodic or harmonic vocalizing that is so seductive that the saxophonist has no option but to fall prey to its subtle charms. The guitarist is sometimes linear, with quick stabbing notes that are deeply etched on the tune and go in unseemly directions (as in "Food Chain"). At other times he is deliberately vague and smudgy ("The Shadow Casts its Object," "Winter") or loud and trashy ("Heliogabalus"). As he tosses out harmonically rich phrases, McHenry is invited to take issue with them or accept the gauntlet and dive right in to further the search for a conclusion.

McHenry is more elusive. Although he plays tenor, he embraces a subtler tone, working more with shades, colors and textures as auras around the notes rather than the actual notes themselves. As a result, he plays less, holding down his keys longer, delaying the moment of departure. This has a kind of visceral effect on the music. It begins to describe more the effect on the nature of things rather than the object itself. In "Food Chain," for instance, the depth of desolation—or hunger—takes on a new meaning with his airy choice of colors, and often the sinister aspects of what the song is trying to describe is brought to the fore.

Much of the soloing on this record takes an inside-out route, much like the titles "The Shadow Casts its Object" and "The Shimmering Now That Breathes You." This is the kind of music that makes for much of the excitement that bodes extremely well for Monder and McHenry, both individually and collectively. Like Gene Pritsker, another musician who gloriously bends and blurs the boundaries that capitalist marketers tend to apply to creative music, Monder and McHenry have a bright future in the world where intellect and creativity have sublime value.

Track Listing: Bloom; Ice Fields; Chiggers; The Shadow Casts its Object; Winter; Heliogabalus; Food Chain; Crocodiles; Poppies; The Shimmering Now That Breathes You.

Personnel: Ben Monder: guitar; Bill McHenry: tenor saxophone.

Title: Bloom | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lux CD/LP/Track Review Lux
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Unleashed CD/LP/Track Review Unleashed
by John Sharpe
Published: January 20, 2018
Read I Think I'm Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I'm Going To Eat Dessert
by Jerome Wilson
Published: January 20, 2018
Read 20 CD/LP/Track Review 20
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Roppongi CD/LP/Track Review Roppongi
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Is Life Long? CD/LP/Track Review Is Life Long?
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 19, 2018
Read "Songs of Experience" CD/LP/Track Review Songs of Experience
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: December 1, 2017
Read "A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard" CD/LP/Track Review A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 4, 2017
Read "Discussions" CD/LP/Track Review Discussions
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 20, 2017
Read "Saturday Night Dogs" CD/LP/Track Review Saturday Night Dogs
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 30, 2017
Read "Constant Change 1976-2016" CD/LP/Track Review Constant Change 1976-2016
by John Sharpe
Published: July 19, 2017
Read "Jondo" CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017