- Soundcheck @jalcnyc and we are SUPER excited to be sharing the stage at Dizzy's with Brooklyn Jazz Underground! #queensjazz
- The perfect combination of "fire in a pet store"/"scratch and sniff" love it! @ShapeShifterLab #freejazz
- Watching the F1 Countdown and writing music inspired by this awesome sport! @F1 #Austin
- My debut with @queensjazz @jalcnyc is Tuesday, November 26! Do come by, it's going to be a wonderful show! t.co/ujNIzZ4gGr
- Enjoying @JDeutschMusic and his quintet @FlushingTwnHall tonight! #queensjazz
For her second album (and Innova debut), New York City guitarist Amanda Monaco presents jazz that is stylistically eclectic yet compositionally whole. The shifts in feel and mood are dramatic – a Middle Eastern ballad morphs into a free-ish atonal romp followed by a hip hop-flavored tune in 5/4 for example – but the playing is sincere and spirited, inspired by the album’s freedom, not cowed by it.
The band has been together for over five years and has reached that enviable point of instantaneous reaction buoyed by constant surprise. Many composers either stick to what works or write about what they don’t know; Monaco avoids both pitfalls. We like the road paved by this Intention…
Amanda Monaco has studied with Ted Dunbar, Gene Bertoncini, and Wayne Krantz, all of whom are big influences on both her compositions and playing. Add to that the stylings of Jim Hall and John McLaughlin’s "Extrapolation", and you get the idea. TimeOutNewYork calls her “a serious jazzbo with impressive chops and a penchant for adventure.”
ALL ABOUT JAZZ-NEW YORK
Over and above ability, it takes chops, confidence and cool for jazz guitarists to invite a tenor saxophone to partake in their music. When it gels…it can result in a meeting that blends the strengths of both instruments into a stylistic whole. Intention… succeeds as such and plainly demonstrates her abilities across all these areas. Monaco’s exquisite chordal and melodic voices are given ample room in originals that show a serious multi-faceted composer capable of complex compositions and differing personas… Intention is not a blowing session or a vehicle for one-upmanship, but a forum for harmonization and contrast.
by Elliott Simon
Amanda Monaco may very well be a musicaholic. In addition to playing and recording, Amanda is also a professor of music, teaches jazz on the web site WorkshopLive, and writes books. She may also very well be one of the truly unique voices in twenty-first century jazz. Ms. Monaco looks nothing like a jazz musician...her appearance would suggest that she is anything but a musician. Her approach is subtle and seemingly distanced from the pack in terms of her overall style of playing guitar. Joining Amanda on this album are Jason Gillenwater (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Fraser Hollins (acoustic bass), and Jeff Davis (drums). Together, these four individuals create some rather subdued, spontaneous, and occasionally intense compositions. Instead of putting herself dead center in the mix, Amanda's guitars seem to weave in and out of the music like a ghost that only makes itself visible on occasion. Moody and slightly creepy, Intention is a peculiar album that becomes more perplexing with repeated spins... (Rating: 5)
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Intention builds on the successes of the quartet’s debut, placing an even more modern spin on a number of traditional reference points. Monaco remains a spare guitarist, far more interested in developing strong melodies and curious harmonies than overtly displaying the chops she clearly possesses. Saxophonist Jason Gillenwater is an equally focused player, while the rhythm section team of bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Jeff Davis is flexible enough to handle Monaco’s far-reaching compositions.
by John Kelman
Monaco plays with a very nice clean tone, and her dry sound complements a patient, often very elaborate phraseology that recalls Liberty Ellman (in addition to some classic sources like Green and Kessel) [...] rewarding tunes [...] the band is so tasteful.
by Jason Bivins
There is something elusive and indefinite in the music of Amanda Monaco, guitarist and composer; pupil of Ted Dunbar, Kenny Barron and Harold Mabern, as well as founder member of Lascivious Biddies, an all-female pop quartet awarded many times. When you think you've finally unlocked the interpretation codes of her tunes, and you've understood their innermost essence, suddenly you feel that you've missed some detail, some apparently marginal nuance that renders the final picture blurred, in a sort of undesired sepia effect. And there's also something unquie in Amanda Monaco's music, an anxiety which hides itself behind engaging sound streams and seemingly comforting melodies, as well as within the maze of tracks more open to improvisation and in sections with an almost chamber-like imprint. You feel a fluctuating tension that makes a dent in the surface of the performances and stops right before wedging itself into dark places inhabited by nightmares in ambush. But above all there is a living, bright and critic musical thinking, which doesn't ignore at all the accepted precepts of the jazz language but tries to extend their frontiers and to change their boundaries. Not through the often overused incursions into the free-improvisation field, but in the one more difficult to explore belonging to melody, harmony and the ballad form. Disc with the length of an old vinyl (it slightly exceeds 45 minutes) and dedicated to the memory of the father prematurely died, Intention is rich in interesting ideas and transforms the apparent initial lightness in a desire that grows up and fulfills itself with each listening.
The midrange frequently offers more interesting textures, colors and possibilities in improvised music, precisely because it is sometimes a music that’s, even to the initiated, thought of as an art form that embraces the extremes. But for every John McLaughlin or Wes Montgomery, there is a Joe Morris, an Attila Zoller, or an Amanda Monaco. Guitarist, composer and educator, Monaco’s music is unassuming but complex free bop, and hinges mostly on the situations she has set up for her longtime quartet, with reedman Jason Gillenwater, drummer Jeff Davis, and bassist Fraser Hollins (recently replaced by Sean Conly). A review of her first disc, Amanda Monaco 4 (Genevieve Records, 2004), suggested a tentativeness. Intention is more fully realized—that is, while being judicious with its firepower, the group occupies a narrow range of gauzy shading, delicately atmospheric but entirely forward-moving, dark and often coiled in its unadorned improvising. All but one of the tunes on this disc are penned by Monaco. Gillenwater contributed the fierce “Resolution Lift,” predominately a tenor and drums duet. There is a woody flavor throughout the disc, though it’s probably most apt for the suitely-arranged “Tel Aviv I Love Her” and “Procrastination,” both featuring Gillenwater’s Klezmer-inspired clarinet tone, rising from traditional reverence to shrill harmonics in a few blinks. Monaco’s guitar language has become grungier on this disc. On the aforementioned “Procrastination” she makes use of muted fuzz and explosive, rock-inspired chords to give the undertow a necessary shove. “Old Skool Flava” was initially penned as a tongue-in-cheek blend of jazz and hip-hop, its knotty theme tugging away at a persistent backbeat. Gillenwater and Davis are digging heels almost from the outset, the tenorman’s tone and phrasing is a firey complement to Monaco’s snaky and tense rhythmic devices—she’s liable to hang as much behind the beat as imply it, searching out dissonances where one might expect a bit more sonic resolution. Even on out-and-out swinging modal numbers like “Deadlines Looming,” there is more than a share of freedom. Monaco, rather than traditional comping, futzes with the chordal and melodic nature of the instrument, both behind and in front of Gillenwater’s tenor in subtle envelopment that keeps the saxophonist on his toes. Davis and Hollins are certainly no slouches either, able to expand on the plasticity of Monaco’s rhythmic work and keep things moving at a tense pace. ”Intention” this CD surely displays, but the biting ambiguity that characterizes the quartet’s playing and Monaco’s writing perhaps makes for a curious part of the equation.
by Clifford Allen