Guitarist Ben Monder and Progressive Saxophonist George Winstone to release a new Duo recording: “Odysseus”

Spontaneously composed from beginning to end, Odysseus—a striking duo venture with the iconic guitarist Ben Monder—juxtaposes an entire journey’s-worth of Winstone’s darting melodies against Monder’s haunting glacial soundscapes.

From George’s website

Jazz Guitarist Ben Monderinterviewed on JGL a few years ago – has been quite busy as of late having recently joined the Bad Plus along with his usual gigs with Maria Schneider and other comparable artists. His busy schedule thankfully has not stopped him from collaborating with others who share his unique melodic and harmonic inventions. Case in point is a new duo album with NYC composer/saxaphonist George Winstoneto be released January 20th, 2023 – I have included an exerpt from the Press Release I recieved and will add more when warranted. Enjoy 🙂


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…Winstone heard Monder perform one May night at the West Village’s famed 55 Bar. After the show, he approached him, asking for a one-on-one lesson, and Monder agreed. When Winstone arrived one month later at the guitarist’s home, “We just played,” he reflects. And from there, a friendship formed.

“Then I booked this gig at Ornithology,” he remembers, referring to the popular new jazz club in Bushwick, Brooklyn—a cozy listening room founded in 2021 by Mitch Borden (who opened and ran the beloved New York institutions Smalls, Fat Cat, and Mezzrow). “And I knew that I just had to do something with Ben.” In a duo performance at the club, Monder and Winstone played entirely freely with no pre-set agenda. “I was feeling more comfortable in knowing, ‘We’re gonna improvise. We’re not gonna play “I Remember April.” That isn’t how far we can take it.’ And I did that gig—and I remember these guys in the audience coming to me after the show, saying, ‘Bro’”—Winstone chuckles—“Bro—you need to record this.”

Thus was born Odysseus—from a musical and personal chemistry that allowed Winstone to venture out confidently into breathtaking landscapes of harmony and melody. On the recording, mixed by GRAMMY-winning engineer James Branciforte, Monder’s enormous sound is like an impossible hydra, a formless beast roping its thousand necks around mountains and clouds. Against this shifting topography, sometimes holy and shimmering, sometimes downright disturbing, Winstone plays the hero’s part: wandering, climbing, searching, pondering, and fighting. “It’s all improvised, but it’s not in the mode of free jazz,” he explains. “This is film music; this is ancient. I can’t escape Prokofiev and I can’t escape Trane. Have you listened to Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia? You see: artists want to tap into certain eras—but humans have been making music for tens of thousands of years.”

A seriousness enters his voice. “I’m not trying to play jazz,” he says, “and I’m not trying to play classical music. I’m improvising, sculpting with sound: we’re creating worlds. For me, the greatest musicians announce that same point which the classical texts of Chinese cosmology honor: that the illusion of self—our seemingly individual expressions—are all accounted for in the procession of nature. We have no choice to be other than what we naturally are.”

Thus the name Odysseus? “I didn’t have the name Odysseus in mind,” says the saxophonist, “And then, listening back to what we recorded, I knew this—viscerally—as a mythical hero’s journey. It’s like entering Hades, swallowed up by this apocalyptic soundscape, and the sax is this kind of hero, trying to navigate. And the name Odysseus just came to mind. I was like, ‘That’s the story. That’s my story.’”

Two For The Show Media – Chris DiGirolamo

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About Lyle Robinson 350 Articles
Lyle Robinson is the owner/creator/publisher and editor of Jazz Guitar Life, an online magazine dedicated to the Jazz Guitar and its community of fine players worldwide.

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