“Deeply personal musical vision, complete with staggering technique and rhythmic flexibility…. Startlingly pure and uncompromising.”
—Rob Levit, Nebula Music Magazine
Highly regarded among guitarists and other musicians for his virtuosity and dedication, Monder has assembled a program of original compositions, including three solo pieces, for his debut CD as a leader. Rooted in jazz improvisation, his music integrates wide-ranging influences, notably twentieth century classical (Bartok, Stravinsky, Carter) and rock, reflecting his experiences as a player and listener. The trio explores forms and textures, elaborating Monder’s evocative melodies and distinctive harmonic language, often sweetly dissonant. The solo works, which are through-composed, guitaristic, and rhythmically challenging, sometimes bring to mind the complexity-within-simplicity and cyclic feel of process music. Monder plays electric guitar throughout but doesn’t employ a panoply of effects; rather, his tone and attack bear the authority of one who has honed his approach to concentrate on the essential.
Born in New York in 1962, Ben studied music at the University of Miami and Queen’s College. He has worked with a wide variety of artists including Rashied Ali, Pheeroan AkLaff, Mick Goodrick, Tim Hagans, Paul Motian, Lee Konitz, Toots Thielemans, Michael Formanek’s quintet, the Roland Vasquez Group and Big Band, and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra; he also toured with Jack McDuff. Recordings include Marc Johnson’s Right Brain Patrol (JMT), Dave Binney’s The Luxury of Guessing (Audioquest), the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra’s Evanescence and Coming About (Enja), and the Patrick Zimmerli Ensemble (Songlines).
Drew Gress is a founding member of Joint Venture (Enja), and leads Jagged Sky, which features Monder on guitar. He can also be heard with the Fred Hersch Trio (Chesky), Tim Berne’s Paraphrase, Andy Laster’s Hydra (Songlines), the Dave Douglas String Group (Soul Note), and Erik Frielander’s Chimera (Avant). He has performed and recorded with Ray Anderson, Marc Copland, Ellery Eskelin, Phil Haynes, and Franklin Kiermyer, among others.
Jim Black appears on Songlines and tours with Ellery Eskelin, in Dave Douglas’ Tiny Bell Trio, and in the collective Human Feel. He also co-leads Pachora, drums in Tim Berne’s Bloodcount (JMT), and can be heard on disc with Ned Rothenberg, Robert Dick, Stephan Furic, Hiroshi Minami, Hilmar Jensson, Andreas Willers and Marty Cook, as well as upcoming CDs with Ed Schuller, Dewey Redman, Billy Drewes, Michael Formanek, Lee Konitz and Carlos Bica. He has played recently with Jane Ira Bloom, Fred Hersch, Hank Roberts, Herb Robertson, Mark Dresser, Jerome Harris, and Django Bates.
***1/2 “Beautifully shaped and recorded, this is an absorbing trio record which makes a good case for demanding more of the so far relatively unexposed Monder. He gets a liquid (though not quite underwater) tone on the guitar that he chooses not to vary very much — the thrashy ‘Lactophobia’ is about the only tune where he puts on the fuzzbox. The rest is long, patiently unspooling lines which bleed into the firm commentary by [bassist Drew] Gress. [Jim] Black’s drum parts are splendidly tough and propulsive, rattling around unexplored parts of the kit but never surrendering a beatmaster’s taste for velocity. To counter the hard-hitting parts, Monder includes three meditative solos, ending on the slow whirl of ‘Propane Dream’. — Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD (3rd Edition)
**** “Originality is a rare commodity. That Ben Monder sounds original on electric guitar and fully retains the listener’s interest for a full hour of recording is in itself an accomplishment. For his debut album, this very talented improviser and composer performs three solo pieces and seven others with his trio. And what a trio it is! Somehow, they manage to successfully immerse themselves in complex abstraction without sacrificing accessibility. Monster drummer Jim Black is never at a loss for ideas, which flow endlessly from his sticks. Bassist Drew Gress is a popular leader and sideman in his own right and his focused, driving, yet eclectic playing is evident throughout. Monder’s rock influences persevere, though his solo pieces display a unique, often astonishing technique that transcends style. His pristine tone, combined with sophisticated ideas, makes him a musician to watch.” — Steven A. Loewy, Allmusic.com
“Terrific…Ben Monder is a find, a versatile musician [who] plays effectively in several modes [with] beautiful tone and articulate phrasing…” — Jon Andrews, Down Beat