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Jazz - Released October 16, 2015 | ECM

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Jazz - Released April 12, 2019 | Sunnyside


Jazz - Released September 24, 2013 | Sunnyside

Guitarist Ben Monder's 2013 album Hydra is an atmospheric, impressionistic album featuring arrangements built around his intricate, complex guitar lines. Monder has always played with a precise fingerpicking style that is classically influenced and often crosses over to jazz, new age music, flamenco, and experimental rock. Hydra is no exception and Monder fills the album with expansive and highly cerebral songs that are hard to pin down stylistically. The album follows up his equally exploratory, if more pared down, 2009 duo album with saxophonist Bill McHenry, Bloom. However, Hydra works better as a follow-up to his 2005 album, Oceana, as it features a similar ensemble with many of the same musicians. Joining Monder here are several longtime collaborators including bassist John Patitucci, bassist Skuli Sverrisson, and drummer Ted Poor. Also helping to create this ambient sound are vocalists Theo Bleckmann, Gian Slater, and Martha Cluver. Interestingly, rather than having them sing lyrics, Monder has the vocalists sing evocative, wordless parts along with his ensemble. The result is that the vocals become more like added instruments to the arrangements, giving the tracks an eerie, otherworldly quality. Together, Monder and his band create a highly sophisticated group sound that can unnerve you one minute and envelope you in ambient warmth the next. In that sense, Hydra often brings to mind the '70s ECM albums of trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and vocalist Norma Winstone, as well as the symphonic choral work of composer György Ligeti. Ultimately, Hydra is a highly engaging and unique recording that ranks as one of Monder’s best. ~ Matt Collar

Jazz - Released December 11, 2015 | Songlines

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Jazz - Released October 25, 2005 | Sunnyside

3 stars out of 5 - "Monder's broad scope is front and center on OCEANA, spanning the distance between the opening fingerpicked guitar fantasia and the searing feedback introduction of 'Rooms Of Light'."

Jazz - Released June 26, 2006 | Sunnyside

This is a difficult set to warm up to. Guitarist Ben Monder's dry sound, which at times recalls Pat Martino and Bill Frisell without sounding derivative, is both subtle and versatile. The music on his sparse trio set with bassist Ben Street and drummer Jim Black (all originals by the leader except for a quiet "I'll Remember April") sometimes makes one think of the ECM sound. Monder's playing ranges from introspective to rocking, and is adventurous while remaining tied to each piece's original mood. One certainly respects Monder's music, but it generally lacks much warmth or wit. ~ Scott Yanow

Jazz - Released June 26, 2006 | Sunnyside

Guitarist Ben Monder packs this highly original album with a panoply of ideas. The dreamlike voice of Theo Bleckmann gives the music an almost medieval, spooky quality. The compositions couldn't be more modern, however. "Ellenville" and "Hatchet Face" are the album's epic statements, combining serious grooves with technically staggering ensemble passages, wordless vocalizing, and brilliant guitar playing. How Bleckmann manages to sing Monder's highly complex lines is a mystery. "Mistral" and "Windowpane" are built around dense, repeated arpeggio figures that spiral into patterns within patterns, creating a dizzying harmonic whirlpool. "Luteous Pangolin" and "Sunny Manitoba" are melodic and relatively straightforward; the latter gives Monder, bassist Skuli Sverrisson, and drummer Jim Black a chance to lay back and blow over chord changes. "Etching," an amorphous, atmospheric piece, features the album's only lyrics. Finally, "You Are My Sunshine" finds Monder on solo acoustic guitar, putting the famous children's song through its paces.Excavation contains some of the most unique, invigorating music released during the year 2000. ~ David R. Adler

Jazz - Released May 4, 2010 | Sunnyside