Album Review | Jazz

Ben Monder, ‘Hydra’


Some would argue that with the Big Three of modern jazz guitar — Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Pat Metheny — belongs a fourth, Ben Monder. At 51, Monder is roughly of the next generation, a go-to guy for the likes of Maria Schneider, the late Paul Motian, and all manner of indie-jazz projects. Here he is at his most exploratory, fashioning an orchestral album for his guitars plus bass, drums, and three vocalists. You won’t recognize many standard song forms or body-moving grooves. Instead the music mostly surges along in odd-metered patterns of beats, layered with multiple guitar sounds, and wordless vocals. “Elysium” shimmers with harp-like arpeggios and Gian Slater’s angelic voice gliding over the top. “Tredecadrome” offers the familiarity of rock-guitar distortion and phrasing, and the closing “Charlotte’s Song” is a lullabye setting of E.B. White. Most enthralling is the title tune, a symphonic narrative alternating passages of quiet transparency with thick weaves of sound. (Out Tuesday)

Jon Garelick


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