For anyone as obsessed with modern jazz guitar as I am, the youtube channel "guydelouest" is an incredible resource. Pages upon pages are filled with concert bootlegs of some of the greatest guitarists of our time, including Kurt, Wayne Krantz, and of course Monder, who makes up the majority of the videos.
It isn't an understatement to say that I wouldn't be able to do decodingmonder.com if this channel didn't exist. Monder is rarely recorded playing on standards, so these bootlegs give me an invaluable perspective on him I wouldn't get from anywhere else.
This week's transcription is a trio version of Embraceable You. Ben's solo is quite long, hence my decision to split it into two parts. Check it out:
Ben doesn't waste anytime in stating his first motif, climbing up the appropriate scale before dropping back down again. This is very similar to one of the motives in his solo over Some Other Blues that I transcribed in week one. Notice some of the note choices here, C#, the #11, and how he changes the rhythms in the motif while keeping the contour somewhat intact.
From an analysis point of view there isn't much to mention here, but its incredible how confident Monder is in this motif; how far he takes it. Lesser improvisers would be playing eighth notes by this point.
The motif comes to a natural stopping point and Ben picks up another thread, which he uses to build tension over the 2-5 in G. The F# (or G#, or E) whole tone scale has a very harsh, unexpected sound, somewhat akin to melodic minor but with b2 and no root. Yes, I know that its really #1.
So many triplets! This is definitely a cornerstone of Ben's style. Even when he's playing these faster subdivisions he manages to create motifs and repetition, which is insane.
The switch from triplets to sixteenth notes is so clean, and the lines he plays are strong and harmonically clear. Every note that he plays is articulated perfectly; he could play a chromatic scale and it would sound incredible.
Given the audio quality, some of these chords might not be exact. However, I tried to transcribe with some of Ben's favorite voicings in mind, so even if every chord isn't 100% correct, they should all make idiomatic sense within his playing. Like realistic fiction, I guess? The motif of descending half steps is the clear focus here. You could think of that motif as the retrograde of the ascending half steps that were present in the two previous excerpts. How deep does the rabbit whole go? If anyone could remember that idea from earlier in their solo, and play it again in retrograde, it'd be Ben.
Ben uses a cool voice leading trick here to get back to Gmaj7. He starts with a B-7 chord, and then moves the bottom two voices down while maintaining the voice on top. I have such a love hate relationship with the Gmaj7 voicing he lands on. The first few times I encountered this voicing with teachers I was convinced it was the worst maj7 voicing imaginable. The minor 9th between the seventh and the root on top was unbearably ugly to my ears. Now, I can recognize that it definitely has a sound. Ted Greene mentioned in a recorded clinic he did that the minor 9th is the only interval that modern society can't stomach, so it must be the next frontier in harmony. I respect Ben pushing the envelope in this way.
Toriyama dissolves the time here and begins playing textures on the cymbals, so Ben opens the rhythms up and starts playing more quarter note triplets. I especially like the ambiguous sus-like arpeggio he uses to play A-7.
Emaj7#5/D gives you four wonderful notes: 9, #11, b7, and b9. Wow! What a cool sub. I'm in awe of how well articulated this line is, again. I'm only starting to realize how amazing Ben's technique is.
Everything Ben plays has such strong logic. Nothing seems forced, ill-conceived, or superfluous. This excerpt is a great example of that.
Ben switches from a triplet grid to a...... quintuplet grid! I don't think I've ever noticed him playing quintuplets before, but they sound so natural here I wouldn't have guessed it if I wasn't transcribing everything.
The direction of every melody is so clear, and each idea is so connected to what comes before and after it. On a different note, we are a minute and a half into his solo, with a grand total of zero bebop cliches.
Ben builds the tension so well with those ascending arpeggios, and the massive chords in the upper register before resolving to a massive Gmaj7 voicing at the top of the next chorus.
1. Even sixteenth notes can develop motifs .
2. Chromaticism can exist outside of bebop language.
3. Find interesting substitutions that use structures you find nice (ie maj7b5, maj7#5, etc)
4. The farther you go with a motif, the better.
Tim Watson is a guitarist and composer based out of Boston, where he attends the Frost School of Music on the prestigious Stamps scholarship.