Words about Ben Monder:
"Ben Monder is a very evolved kind of musician — great chord voicing and just excellent playing."
- Pat Metheny


“A lot of people play well, but what stops me is if somebody’s got a musical concept that’s different. Ben Monder is a jazz guitarist, but he’s not playing any bebop phrasing at all. He’s made an album that reflects wide musical thinking and ability, and incorporated music from other places to create his own world. He’s got a very good right hand.”
- Andy Summers


It's tough to make the shift from vicious to ethereal, but for the last decade, guitarist Monder has refined his maneuvers to do just that, providing a personal (and very modern) definition of lyricism. From foot pedal freak-outs to dream-time dramas, he's brought a solid footing to abstract experiments.
- Jim Macnie, Village Voice


Ben Monder has been justly praised as one of the most original guitarists of the 21st Century. He is not only a fearless improviser but also a smart accompanist. Monder can shred his way through a solo (like Nels Cline) and then land on the most melodic phrase. Monder's creative guitar work continues to impress this listener - he never just plays but always makes rich contributions to the songs.
- Richard Kamins, Hartford Courant


Monder has released four extraordinary solo projects, and has appeared on more than 100 recordings, and yet he remains tragically unsung—likely due to the sheer profundity of his harmonic concept. Whether weaving polyrhythmic arpeggios into dense and oddly compelling clusters (as on 2005’s Oceana), or exploring exploded blues figures (as on Marc Johnson’s Right Brain Patrol), Monder consistently takes his Ibanez AS50 and ’36 Martin into uncharted realms. — BC
- From Guitar Player magazine - 101 Forgotten Greats and Unsung Heroes, 2/07


Monder has yet to establish the kind of name that he deserves with the larger listening public, but he's in high demand amongst musicians in the know. A musical chameleon with almost matchless technical skill, he's released four albums as a leader since 1995, the most recent being Oceana (Sunnyside, 2005), one of the year's best and an album that combines detailed, long-form composition with inspired improvisational flights and, at times, a prog-rock attitude....Monder is a complex thinker, with a remarkable harmonic knowledge and distinctive approach to both writing and improvising that simply sound like no other guitarist. There are subtle hints of Frisell, especially in Monder's pulling on the neck of his guitar to achieve slight pitch shifts, but if Frisell's approach is skewed, then Monder's is positively twisted. Sharp chordal attacks are interspersed with linear phrases that incorporate broad intervallic leaps, rapid-fire runs and dramatic flourishes that, despite their idiosyncratic nature, are clearly focused. Alternating between finger-picking and rapid flat-picking, Monder sounds like nobody else because, watching him play, his hands move on the guitar like no other.
- John Kelman, All About Jazz, 4/07


Ben Monder [has an] ability to create music that dazzles and delights with its impeccable craftsmanship, technical dexterity and way left-of-center originality. I was impressed by his textural command and skill at weaving seemingly elusive melodies and deviously contrapuntal lines into an intricate whole.
- George Varga - San Diego Union-Tribune

You know within about three seconds that something original is coming out of Ben Monder’s electric guitar — a whispering flow of harmonic challenges that fold backward, sideways and across dimensions like time-space origami...He’s like a magician who slows a trick down to ox-cart tempo, and you still can’t figure out how he did it.
- Greg Burk - LA Weekly

Ben Monder has played nearly unsurpassable jazz guitar with any number of actual jazz groups. But what he plays with his own group comes from another planet.
- Ben Ratliff, NY Times

Nicknamed "Mind Bender" by his guitar-playing colleagues for his dazzling technical facility, Monder has been quietly astounding guitar fans in New York City for the past 10 years. His renegade approach to the instrument is marked by liquid single note lines, classically finger-picked arpeggios, and unorthodox chordal voicings. An adventurous player, Monder is particularly impressive in solo settings, where his fondness for dissonance and daring intervallic leaps, along with a penchant for weaving complex, contrapuntal lines and creating ambient moods and textures come to the fore.
- Bill Milkowski, Jazziz March 2005

...if you need to surrender your routine-weary mind to an alternate consciousness, Ben Monder is your best rejuvenatory bet...Monder is a multifaceted, multi-talented anomaly that mezmerizes with a rare depth of originality and focus.
- Dean Cotrill ,The Hour, Montreal

...Ben Monder delivered the evening's most stunning displays of technical virtuosity and compositional daring,...spinning a web of hypnotic, rapid arpeggios with unerring accuracy for minutes on end.
- David Adler, All About Jazz

...his deeply personal musical vision, complete with staggering technique and rhythmic flexibility, allow him to maneuver in territory where most guitarists fear to tread.
- Rob Levit, Nebula Magazine

About "At Night":
Aptly named, this atmospheric set layers the seemingly limitless vocals of Bleckmann over Monder's stormy, portentous guitar; whether transforming "Norwegian Wood" into a distorted howl, stretching Joni Mitchell's "Sunny Sunday" like mournful taffy, or setting Rumi poetry or even wordless exultations to an acoustic waterfall, the duo paint a portrait of enticing isolation.
-Philadelphia City Paper Top 10 List for 2007

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, the sounds wrought are undeniably the product of the indissoluble bond of that magical, futuristic technique with the spectrum of suffering and celebration emanating from the soul of their maker. Throughout his career, Monder has consistently raised the bar of guitar technique to its now new-millennium level, while linking it to refinement and erudition that is all his own. In his improvisations and his compositions, he has the uncanny ability to play tensions and resolutions, and to magically and futuristically translate them, as would a painter, in the mind's-eye of the listener, to darkness and light. Eight of the ten pieces herein were composed by the co-leaders, with three of those co-composed with the third man in on this recording—the indispensably inventive percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. Three of eight combine to form the session's nucleus around translations of the 13th century Quatrains of the Persian poet Rumi, the only words used by Bleckmann on the session's originals. Bleckmann begins, floating "Late by Myself, in the boat of myself" over Monder's finger-style version of circular breathing arpeggiation on steel-string acoustic. The use of powerful poetic metaphor and spectral melodic line combine to wash over us into the ocean of imagery found in our own depths, akin to the effects of Monder's 2005 opus, Oceana (Sunnyside Records). "Swarm" is a hoard of buzzing free-associations, first between Takeishi on rims, metal, and wood and Bleckmann's manic gutteralisms, percussives, tweets and toots. They are conjoined by Monder's hyper-speed, darting single-line improvisation. His lines' basis comes later, from the harmony implied by a spare combination of Takeishi's laptop and Bleckmann's organ-like live multitracking, achieved by a device that echoes his vocals at set intervals. The swarm gives way to light in the form of a Bleckmann soliloquy, only to be refracted out through Monder's lines. This slight turn south allows Ben to lift us higher with his gorgeous volume-swelled voicings supporting Bleckmann's invitation to the "Orchard." This Rumi-nation on how our world, however beautiful, is transformed so completely by others choosing to accompany or desert us, will elicit tears. Cinematic and transporting are not descriptive enough adjectives to apply. Not only is the music a soundtrack to a yet existent motion picture, it is inspiration enough for its own film. Not only will hearing stir each listener into their own voyage, it will propel them to other journeys.
-Phil Dipietro, All About Jazz 6/07

Ben Monder and Theo Bleckmann's second collaboration, "At Night," is an astonishing compilation of originally conceived and orchestrated musical landscapes....While this album is not primarily an acoustic guitar recording, several pieces feature Monder's unique and expressive approach to the instrument. On the ominous opener "Late, by Myself," the guitarist creates some wonderfully flowing chordal tones to Bleckmann's ethereal wordless vocals. "Animal Planet" is a beautiful Brazilian inspired piece with subtle, melodic vocalizations over Monder's delicate and intricate accompaniment. An album solely devoted to the acoustic instrument would be a welcome appendage to the guitarist's critically acclaimed solo catalogue. The addition of Satoshi Takeishi on percussion on five of the tracks adds an even more dynamic dimension to the mix. As a case in point, on "Carbon" Monder unleashes some frenetic, distorted guitar lines reminiscent of Terje Rypdal and Steve Tibbetts, while Bleckmann counters with processed vocals amid Takeishi's powerful percussive work. There's even a psychedelic deconstruction of the Beatles "Norwegian Wood" and a poignant reading of Joni Mitchell's "Sunny Sunday." This groundbreaking album is challenging in many ways, but is at the same time uniquely refreshing and satisfying. While tradition is definitely abandoned, it is also redefined and recreated, to produce a recording that is truly unique and compulsory listening for adventurous fans of contemporary music.
- minor7th.com

On At Night, the duo’s second recording, Theo Bleckmann and Ben Monder make the kind of music that critics often describe as genre-defying. Bleckmann, a vocalist who also contributes what he calls “live electronic processing,” sings in an off-kilter style that is reminiscent of Gastr Del Sol’s David Grubbs and Shudder to Think’s Craig Wedren, two of post-punk’s artiest crooners. And Monder, an electric guitarist, alternates between lighter-than-air melodies and distortion-rich atmospherics that suggest no one so much as John Abercrombie. Together, they sound otherwordly...
- Brent Burton, Jazz Times

"...truly gorgeous stuff...Exhilarating, trippy, and a little scary too. And somehow, comforting..."
- Mark Saleski, Blogcritics.org

On the first piece, "Late, By Myself", Monder sounds as if he is playing layers of slightly mutated acoustic guitars in harplike fashion, drowning supremely in cosmic echoes with Theo's transcendent voice floating on the clouds above. What is most amazing about this duo/trio is the way Monder gets all sorts of orchestral colors out of his layers of guitars; often his notes shimmer and wash over us like waves of the ocean. Both Theo and Ben are masters of creating vast colors and textures with their respective instruments, and once again show their limitless creativity on every piece.
- Downtown Music Gallery

"For all its layered density, the album is about nothing so much as atmosphere. "At Night" is the intimate sound of being inside one's own head. Bleckmann's keening vocals flow over Monder's cascading steel string arpeggios, like a waterfall's constant roar full of smaller ripples and eddies...Rarely have such individual musicians have sounded so single minded."
- Shaun Brady, Downbeat Magazine

Ben Monder is a astounding guitarist who has just incredible technique and can go from wild rock to delicate control in a snap. Together they make really
beautiful, unique, intimate music that sounds like it could only have
come from these two (Satoshi Takeishi guest on drums and percussion and
computer on 5 tracks). Not a difficult listen at all, this is probably
the best record I heard this month. Recommended!
- Wayside Music

Wondrous melodies are woven with exquisite compositions and intricate arrangements to form songs that composers often dream of. This is magic wrapped in eeriness folks!
- J-Sin, Smother Magazine

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 stop them from painting some black.
Texture and dynamics are constantly forged which makes listening to this CD a constant surprise.
--Jerry D'Souza, AAJ

Well established as one of the great contemporary progressive jazz guitarists, Monder ditches the sideman gig for a return to the group he started ten years ago and hasn’t recorded with since. With sharp chops leading the way, Monder never fails to impress. A nice dose of cutting edge jazz that open ears are sure to welcome. Recorded in super audio, this is an intimate enough date that it sounds like they are in the room with you.
- Midwest Record

About "Oceana":
As the title suggests, the music is generally deep and dark, with bits of lightness and beauty breaking through from various angles. The album opens with “Still Motion,” a solo acoustic guitar composition that unfolds like the tentacles of a sea creature, employing clustered arpeggios that imply melodies rather than stating them explicitly. Monder switches to electric for the remainder of the album, but continues to emphasize cascading waves of notes...This is one of the most intriguing and original-sounding CDs I’ve heard all year.
--Barry Cleveland, Guitar Player Magazine

"It is very rare to encounter a recording that is truly unique in its compositional style and performance. Oceana is one such record. Monder...has created seven wonderful compositions that are structurally sophisticated and unique in style. Monder's music seems to move and flow with little effort, while in reality it is incredibly complex from a technical and compositional standpoint. ...Oceana, with its changing tides and liquid sound, is a terrific album and a compositional triumph."
--Dan Bilawski, Jazz Improv Magazine

As much an experience in hypnotic textures as a voyage through aquatic depths, Ben Monder's "Oceana" captures an essential mood and holds it for a full seventy minutes...."Oceana" [is] a truly exceptional disc that cannot and should not be categorized.
- Nils Jacobson, All About Jazz

...unquestionably his most fully-realized record to date, [Oceana] combines complex through-composition with influences ranging from contemporary classical music to Americana and progressive rock. Monder’s tinted filter means these influences end up taking on more personal meaning.
- John Kelman, All About Jazz

Ben Monder's "Oceana", the first CD in five years for the enigmatic guitarist, is a stunning acheievement. With their mercurial arpeggios, leaping intervals, sonorous melodies and counterintuitive rhythms, Monder’s through-composed pieces defy comparison. But it is color and mood, not just jaw-dropping complexity, that sets this work apart.
- David Adler, Jazz Times

Oceana, Monder’s fourth release as a leader, reads like a compelling story—a moody, swirling atmosphere full of ghostly worlds, abstract lyricism, small group craftiness, and a sense of compositional drama that keeps you turning each page to see what’s next...On Oceana, Monder proves his ability to distill a variety of guitar pillars into his own concoction and creates a mesmerizing program that speaks to his personal ethos. Truly an outstanding guitar record that stands miles ahead of the rest.
- Jay Collins, Onefinalnote.com

The guitarist’s Oceana is one of the year’s more dazzling jazz discs. Following some novel design tenets, Monder’s music waxes rigorous, psychedelic, pensive, and flamboyant.
- Jim Macnie, Village Voice

An absolutely original voice with no musical comprises or boundaries, Ben Monder is a hidden treasure. Check out his latest recording - Oceana...
- Souvik Dutta, Abstractlogix.com

About "Excavation":
The cornerstone tunes are “Ellenville” and “Hatchet Face” (like all but the final track, Monder originals). Each comes in at around fifteen minutes and is an unhurried exploration of atmosphere, developed through a succession of mini-movements, intelligent grooves, and freewheeling guitar improvisations mixing dexterous chordal passages and jetspeed single-note runs.
- Chris May, AAJ

"Guitarist Ben Monder flashes a technique that’s close to ridiculous here, though you might miss it if you aren’t looking for it. On “Mistral,” the first number and a tune that sets the tone for everything that follows…the guitarist surges through streams of notes so quickly and smoothly that the guitar seems to liquefy in his hands."
- Aaron Steinberg, Jazz Times

The compositions...combine serious grooves with technically staggering ensemble passages, wordless vocalizing, and brilliant guitar playing...Excavation contains some of the most unique, invigorating music released during the year 2000.
- David Adler, All Music Guide

Guitarist Ben Monder inhabits a world where jazz is created for deep space. Setting aside typical jazz meters and swing, he plays with a detached consciousness.
- Mark Corroto, All About Jazz

Monder's delicate guitar notes combine with the high pitched or throaty vocalized humming of Bleckmann in creating a harmonic garden of pleasure, a place where vibrant music swarms unthreateningly over the senses...the result is a recording of highly inspired music.
- Cadence Magazine

Another extremely strong release from an underrecognized, innovative harmonic master and his henchman that, so fortunately for us all, calls out for the next.
- Phil DiPietro, All About Jazz

Monder picks through chords like a spider spinning its web on speed...
- Christopher Porter, Jazz Times

About "Dust":
"While the entire band contributes perfectly in their respective roles, Ben Monder is clearly the captain of this musical ship with his powerful, yet beautifully subtle, guitar playing. Here is a guitarist who has no interest in establishing alpha-male guitar dominance and/or sticking to traditional ideas about what people expect to hear. Instead, Monder takes his time to express his musical soul - with stunning results...Listening to Dust I was taken back to the days when I would put my headphones on and listen to entire albums with my eyes closed. This is the kind of album that demands some patience, but the payoff is magical."
- Craig Yerkes, San Diego Troubador

Monder's haunting compositions use odd meters, extended forms, and daring polytonal harmonies that push the boundaries of the guitars capabilities...Highly recommended.
- Tristen Rosenn, Bird Magazine

...Monder creates flowing, rich harmonies while conjuring up moods of dark introspection and a twist of controlled mayhem on this stunning six string showcase.
- Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes

Dust is one of the best jazz records I've ever had the pleasure of hearing.
- Blaine Fallis, About.com

While the entire band contributes perfectly in their respective roles, Ben Monder is clearly the captain of this musical ship with his powerful, yet beautifully subtle, guitar playing...Listening to Dust I was taken back to the days when I would put my headphones on and listen to entire albums with my eyes closed. This is the kind of album that demands some patience, but the payoff is magical.
Craig Yerkes - San Diego Troubadour

About "Flux":
Monder's spacey, shimmering guitar work, which is entirely devoid of both rock and jazz clichés, is always absorbing... The result is an album of thoughtful, gutsy, and always fascinating music.
- Kenny Mathieson, Jazzwise

The solo guitar study, Orbits, creates compelling continuity through use of a bass-like pedal figure against bright treble clusters, while the title cut embodies sophisticated theme development through carefully sculpted and tantalizingly oblique melodic lines.
- Joseph Murphy, 5/4 Magazine

Beautifully shaped and recorded, this is an absorbing trio record...
- Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD (3rd edition)

...his solo pieces display a unique, often astonishing technique that transcends style. His pristine tone, combined with sophisticated ideas, make him a musician to watch.
- Steve Leowy, All Music Guide

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