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SoundGround >> Ben Monder - jazz/classical guitarist


9/30/12 11:12 PM
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jman
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Edited: 10/01/12 4:41 AM
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Ben Monder was new to me, mentioned by Ali (THANKS!) on the Mike Stern thread. To me an amazing combination of jazz and classical influences that you don't see too often:









10/1/12 12:04 AM
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Ali
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Edited: 10/01/12 12:15 AM
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Another guy I just run out of superlatives for. Or one of the guys I do that most for, even.

Rather than go that route -- I'll point out, I believe his first recording was with bassist Marc Johnson. He was on the map as one of 5 guys over the years who worked in pairs with Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band (i.e., post-Frisell younger guys that Motian took in. The others are all mentioned on that Stern thread, too). He's been the guitarist in Maria Schneider's orchestra; Schneider is the big band composer who many think of as a successor to Gil Evans. He's done some work with Donny McCaslin's bands. (One of which is a great youtube video, with a Monder solo, but alas a fairly tame and straight ahead one. It's very good. But it's not the star of the video). I think he was/is the guitarist for singer Madeleine Peyroux. So that's a real straight ahead jazz gig.

But he's done lots of other stuff -- LOTS of other stuff, actually. Those are the higher profile modern jazz gigs. And the NY jazz people all know him and ... are maybe scared!

He's a weirdo, though. A bunch of records with avant-garde vocalist Theo Bleckmann, under one or the other or both their names are very strange things indeed.

While jman already posted what I think are the most revealing videos available on youtube concerning Monder... I'll add once here, since I mentioned it. I think altoist Dave Binney is the mind-melter here (and McCaslin, too), Monder in a jazz-harmony mellower state of mind is really good, too:

10/1/12 12:12 AM
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Ali
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Or more jazz... This goes on for 21 minutes, so you have to like it to get through, obviously. Monder's solo starts at 8:58 and goes on for a few minutes.

I like this band a whole lot, personally.

10/1/12 12:25 AM
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Ali
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Shredding. Sweep picking. There have been guys in jazz who have "classical" right hand technique. (Though I think Jimmy is more talking Ben's classical composition and voice-leading). Monder's is just as good as anybody's. But he also can do anything with a pick in his hand. It's really crazy that he's as developed in both ways as he is. I can't think of anyone else who is.

This sound quality sucks, but you can hear how ridiculous he is.

10/1/12 12:29 AM
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Ali
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Edited: 10/08/12 10:31 PM
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And in a very mellow mood. In his early "Frisell" phase... at least a good portion of the way, until he's not. I'm still a total sucker for this stuff:

10/1/12 12:35 AM
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Ali
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There's plenty more. there's a Brazilian piece that took me away, too. But I think I'm getting too obscure or soemthing. I just saw this -- and because I mentioned his work with Theo Bleckmann (and there's a lot of it) -- I figure I'll share this and call it quits for tonight. Monder is out of this world. Bleckmann is using the looping effects on his voice. Monder plays a pretty clean tone throughout. Um, mostly. The amazing combination of jazz and classical influences jman mentions is in full effect. Even when doing The Beatles.



There's a piece, something in the title about "Light" (can't remember) that's on Oceana, which is 100% vocal counterpoint. No guitar at all. Super classical sounding, and insanely great. He's just that way.
10/1/12 4:41 AM
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jman
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Edited: 10/01/12 4:42 AM
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Great stuff thanks.

I'm not a jazz guy...hell I'm a reluctant fusion guy...but you're turning me over to the "dark side". It's hard not to see how amazing jazz is to your musical vocabulary. Even if you don't use the "bebop scale" in your playing, the experience and exposure to these influences are pricless.

I kind of have an idea of where I want to go with my playing...then you post some stuff like Stern and Monder, and it makes me re-evaluate my destination and how I'm getting there, thanks!
10/1/12 5:16 AM
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Ali
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Sounds like I should apologize for confusing your direction, if anything!

I"m not a "fusion guy" either, at least in the sense that like "prog" for rock, some of the most bloated, needlessly self-aggrandizing gestures and worst records live there. But the best of it, I love. And Somehow I went from , say, Robert Fripp to Bill Frisell in 1984 or so. The latter seemed less a technician, but just had such a different set of ears... led me to lots of new things to obsess about. Believe it or not, what was called "punk" in 1977 did some of the same things to my little 14-year old ears. And all I ever played or practiced was classical.... I think I just dig everything and have no sense of focus.
10/1/12 6:08 AM
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jman
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Edited: 10/01/12 6:16 AM
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That's what is great about your opinions. You have the classical background, but love many other of music. I think the most amazing thing, is having someone trained in a musical background (classical, jazz, blues, etc) that is open minded enough to listen to other of music and try to "get something from it".

CAVEAT!!!!!!!!!!

I also LOVE to talk to people who have NO musical background whatsoever...like tone deaf, pop music loving people. The reason, is because music is different things to different people, and I love to hear a "honest/unbisased" opinion from a non-musician. While their opinion may not weigh as much as a University PHD Music professor to me, it is very valid, and defines something about humans/music that I may not be able to understand because of my musically "biased" education.
10/1/12 3:17 PM
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hugomma
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Seriously, you guys are the best.

10/8/12 10:44 PM
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hugomma
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Ali & jman, just listened to "Ben Monder Trio 2".  Unbeliveable.  Monder's avant classical/jazz combo is somewhere between Frisell and Eric Dolphy, & Ali knows how I feel about Dolphy (my latest musical obsession).  Besides the obvious modern classical influences with the compositions and chord melodies, his weird, wide interval/upper extension phrasing really brough Dolphy to mind.  Especially when he turned the jets on at around 3:12.

And my god with this opening chord melody on "Luteous Pangolin".  Loved the slow, quiet drum build up into the clean, single note soloing.  Great interplay between the band.  A complete contrast to the 1st video.  The versitily Monder has with tones, moods, & styles is very unique.

Monder's like Frisell, Cline, or Keneally, in the sense that he's one of these guys you can completely get lost in.  What an unbelievable player.  Thanks for bringing him to our attention. 

Ali, what are Monder's best albums?

10/8/12 10:44 PM
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hugomma
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Ali & jman, just listened to "Ben Monder Trio 2".  Unbeliveable.  Monder's avant classical/jazz combo is somewhere between Frisell and Eric Dolphy, & Ali knows how I feel about Dolphy (my latest musical obsession).  Besides the obvious modern classical influences with the compositions and chord melodies, his weird, wide interval/upper extension phrasing really brough Dolphy to mind.  Especially when he turned the jets on at around 3:12.

And my god with this opening chord melody on "Luteous Pangolin".  Loved the slow, quiet drum build up into the clean, single note soloing.  Great interplay between the band.  A complete contrast to the 1st video.  The versitily Monder has with tones, moods, & styles is very unique.

Monder's like Frisell, Cline, or Keneally, in the sense that he's one of these guys you can completely get lost in.  What an unbelievable player.  Thanks for bringing him to our attention. 

Ali, what are Monder's best albums?

10/8/12 11:04 PM
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Ali
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Edited: 10/08/12 11:06 PM
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Best? Hmm.. Under his own name, I like all of 'em. Flux is most pared down (trio and solo), and his first. Oceana would be the more recent one with other contexts. In between were Dust and Excavation. Probably "Dust" is the weakest, but... I'm not sure if that's just a question of needing more listening. It's a bit forbidding. The others are, too, to some extent. But for the variety, Dust + Oceana or Excavation would be where to start.

I have two records as "Theo Bleckmann and Ben Monder". I have to dig them up. I didn't really get into them at the time. But now that I have listened to the post with the two of them above, I can't get enough of it. So this has to be revisited. (Bleckmann is on some of the tunes on his other records, too, excepting Flux).

With others... damn, he's on so many records, and so in a support role on most. I first heard him with Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band, which is why I noticed him. And he was obviously great. But I wouldn't recommend that stuff until you have all the Motian with Lovano and Frisell, so... y'know! And I really like Maria Schneider (modern big band stuff), where Monder is a stalwart. But he doesn't get to play up front much. We need more of him featured on most all of that, and most everything I've heard where he's a sideman.

He's got a couple of duet records with pianist Bill McHenry. Too damn mellow is my short impression. Good but not great records.

I think his first professional recording was with Marc Johnson on "Right Brain Patrol". It's a good record, Monder up front enough... but it's less mature of him. He's clearly in thrall to Frisell at that point, still working into his own thing. Maybe that's unfair, but... I just think he turned into something different and better very soon after that.

And I have a record by Guillermo Klein called "Los Gauchos II" that is a really spectacular and strange record, with Monder. But again, not up-front Monder.

And maybe the same can be said of the Donny McCaslin records. I posted two videos of Monder with McCaslin's band above. I love that music... it's not really heavily featuring Monder the beast, though.

And that's pretty much everything I know. He's on another two dozen albums.

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