The Upshot: An emphasis on improvisation rather than composition, lending a free-flowing vibe to the tracks from the David Bowie jazz guitarist.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Guitarist Ben Monder’s profile was recently raised due to his position as axeman on David Bowie’s final LP Blackstar. But the New Yorker has a long jazz career going back to the early 90s; Amorphae is his sixth album as a leader. Joined on various tracks by free jazz drummer Andrew Cyrille, synthesist Pete Rende and late drummer Paul Motian, Monder puts the emphasis on improvisation rather than composition, lending a free-flowing vibe to the tracks.
“Free flowing” doesn’t mean chaotic – Monder and his cohorts tend toward the atmospheric, as on the shimmering “Tumid Cenobite,” which extracts melody out of volume swells and Cyrille’s subtle percussion accents, or the solo “Tendrils” and “Dinosaur Skies.” Some dust does get kicked up, of course, via Monder, Rende and Cyrille’s slow climb up the tower of “Zythum” and on Monder and Motian’s duet on the busy “Triffids” and a radically transmogrified Rodgers and Hammerstein Oklahoma standard “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” Fans looking for postbop riffing and flashy solos won’t find them here. Monder’s aim is instead to use improvisation to create moods, a soundtrack to life passing by, and in that respect he succeeds admirably.
DOWNLOAD: “Zythum,” “Dinosaur Skies,” “Triffids”