Photo John Labbe
Ben Monder, guitarist, musician in the New York area for 30 years, has performed with a wide variety of artists, including Jack McDuff, Marc Johnson, Lee Konitz, George Garzone, Paul Motian, and The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra. He has conducted clinics and workshops around the world, and served on the faculty of the New England Conservatory from 2002-2005.
with Theo Bleckmann
He was also the recipient of a Doris Duke Artist Award in 2014. Ben continues to perform original music internationally with his own quartet, trio, and in a duo project with vocalist Theo Bleckmann. He has appeared on over 130 CDs as a sideman, and has released 5 as a leader: Hydra (Sunnyside, 2013), Oceana (Sunnyside, 2005), Excavation (Arabesque, 2000), Dust (Arabesque, 1997), and Flux (Songlines,1995).
What do you remember about your first guitar?
My first guitar was a crappy nylon string acoustic that belonged to my mother. I happened to find it in a closet, untouched for probably many years. I played it all through high school until somebody sat on it.
Why do you need music?
I need music precisely because of the mystery that makes it impossible to say why I need music.
So, why do you love the guitar?
Did I say I love the guitar? Well, assuming I did, it is because of its vast expressive potential.
Which work of your own (or as a sideman) are you most proud of, and why?
I would have to say my last record, "Hydra". I feel like I finally accomplished what I was going for, and have few if any misgivings about it.
One thing do you have learned with effort through the guitar
I am at the point where the guitar seems to be getting harder to play instead of easier. And the relation of practicing to improvement is no longer so direct.
What was the first solo you learned from a record — and can you still play it?
"Blue and Boogie" by Wes Montgomery. Wait, that's actually wrong - Boston's "More Than A Feeling" predates that by a couple of years.
I would have to review them both before I let you know if I could still play them. Which I will probably not do.
What’s the difference between a good guitar and a bad guitar?
A bad guitar makes you feel like quitting music.
What are the challenges and benefits of today's digital music scene?
I suppose it is an advantage to so quickly and easily be able to share your music with the world, but a distinct disadvantage that you will not be paid for it and have to put up with compromised sound quality.
What quality do you admire most in a musician?
Someone who has figured out the most direct access to his or her personal voice.
A valuable advice that someone has gifted to you in the past?
"Never practice unless you want to, but always want to"
What's your fetish device in the sound chain? Amp, pedal, mic, pickups...
Fetish device? My modified Lexicon LXP-1 reverb unit is pretty important for my sound, if that's what you mean.
What dead artist would you like to have collaborated with?
I would love to have collaborated on some songs with Federico Garcia Lorca.
What’s your latest project about?
I have just completed a recording that is mostly improvised, and is pretty slow-paced and spacious. It is a contrast to my previous release.
Ben Monder Hydra
Naïve / Sunnyside 2013
Theo Bleckmann Vocals
Martha Cluver Vocals
Ben Monder Bass, Guitar,
John Patitucci Bass
Ted Poor Drums
Gian Slater Vocals
Skúli Sverrisson Bass
Ben Monder / Bill McHenry Bloom
Sunnyside / Sunnyside Communications 2010
Bill McHenry Sax Tenor
Ben Monder Guitar
Theo Bleckmann / Ben Monder At Night
(Songlines SGL SA1561-2) 2007
Ben Monder Oceana
(Sunnyside Records SSC 1146) 2005
Ben Monder Excavation
(Arabesque AJ0148) 2000
Theo Bleckmann/Ben Monder No Boat
(Songlines 1516) 1997
Ben Monder Tro Dust
Arabesque Jazz, AJ0131) 1997
(Songlines 1509) 1995