This is one of my favorite late-night Youtube discoveries, a 1995 cassette recording of Remi Buldoc 's (currently chair of jazz studies at McGill) group playing the Coltrane tune Some Other Blues. Monder is at his fiery best here, and the band (Doug Weiss, Owen Howard) doesn't hurt either. His solo exhibits all the things I admire in his playing, beautiful architecture, strange, harmonically ambiguous lines, and hard driving rhythmic intensity. Check it out: (Monder's solo starts at 2:36)
Monder starts this solo with a simply voiced F6 chord, a very neutral sound. The top note, D, becomes the focus, generating the motif that occurs for the first time in bar 5. He then adds a pickup into the second statement of the melody, now in a C whole tone scale.
This motif is repeated with the intervals augmented, still remaining in C whole tone.
He then modulates the motif back into F mixolydian, adding a few extra notes before each climb and messing with the rhythm. The major 7th leap down from Ab to A natural in bar 18 has an particularly harsh sound.
He jumps back down to B natural, which we first hear as the root of a #4 diminished chord or just as the F blues scale, but is instead assimilated as the fifth of a F#/Gb major scale. The motif of ascending and quickly descending remains intact. In bar 24, he jumps back down to B natural again, but instead makes it the seventh of a C melodic minor scale, or F lydian dominant. In bar 26, you can see Monder's harmonic gears spinning, pausing on the C before using D# (formerly Eb) as a common tone connecting C melodic minor to a B triad.
Most players would immediately shy away from the B triad, using it as a small cadence back into F, but instead Monder digs in his heels and plays an entire 8 BARS in B major. I find this section of his solo hilarious; the lilting sound of that motive and its aggressively tonal sound is so offputting because its a tritone off from the key.
Monder begins playing more horizontally at the top of the next chorus, with a Dbmaj7 arpeggio, an aeolian sound.
The first line of this segment is the most clearly Monder plays the changes in this solo. He very clearly outlines the Bb sound in bar 41, then subs in a Bb- before playing Am-7, and Ab-7 as a tritone sub for D7. He begins to slide outside again in bar 46, playing a Gbmaj7 (phrygian) arpeggio and remaining in Gb/F# until the end of bar 48, where he introduces another hilariously tonal motive.
He experiments with this motif, both in Gb and F, before transitioning into a chromatic line that resolves, strangely, to E. The phrase afterwords is puzzling, to say the least. If the C# in bar 55 was moved down to C natural, it would be a simple diminished arpeggio based of the 3 of the D7b9, an idea that everyone has heard thousands of times, but that isn't what Monder plays. The C# still functions fine as a half step enclosure of D, but the idea becomes something much more alien because of it.
Monder pauses, then plays an ascending C whole tone scale starting on the third, adding some passing tones at the end, then sliding into a pattern of two add4 triads a half step apart.
The last four notes of the previous segment (C Db C Bb) resolve naturally to A, and Monder plays a pretty clear D7b9 in bar 68. He outlines the G-7 with a 4th + 2nd intervallic pattern, a concept he discusses in one of his instructional videos. Bar 71 builds tension beautifully at the bottom of the chorus.
That open A string on the downbeat is so heavy, as are the notes he adds on top of it.
More harmonically ambiguous lines build tension until the top of the next chorus, where Monder lands on an A natural, and then plays a series of ascending and descending 11 chords with an F common tone on top.
The chords in the end of the last segment voice lead well into the pattern that starts here, whole step descending chords that I first identified as -7b9's, but what could also be maj7add4 or 7(13)'s.
Monder finishes that descending chord motif, and plays a few more lines in the next chorus before the alto sneaks in and starts the fours.
Tim Watson is a guitarist and composer based out of Boston, where he attends the Frost School of Music on the prestigious Stamps scholarship.