Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #30 — Amanda Monaco

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

Guitarist Amanda Monaco, a Connecticut native who has lived in New York City since 1995, pursues many muses as a player and composer. She ranges from grooving post-bop with an organ combo on her latest album, Glitter (Posi-Tone, 2017), to the textured compositions of Pirkei Avot Project, Vol. 1 (Genevieve Records, 2011), which presents her settings of ancient rabbinical verses for an ensemble of voice, guitar, recorder, bass and percussion. She has also performed with the excellent band Deathblow alongside saxophonist Michaël Attias, bassist Sean Conly and drummers Satoshi Takeishi and Jeff Davis, all Sound It Out favorites. Amanda is an assistant professor at the Berklee College of Music, and she has also taught at the New School and the National Guitar Workshop. Long a devoted instructor of guitarists from 8 to 80, she is the author of Jazz Guitar for the Absolute Beginner (Alfred Publishing). Amanda is also artistic director of Convergence Arts, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to share the art and fun of improvisation with people of all ages.

The New York City Jazz Record described Amanda’s guitar playing nicely as “well within the modernist canon, but quite distinctive: her phrasing is often made up of tartly dissonant chords and insistent yet off-kilter repetitions that remind one of Grant Green by way of Andrew Hill… Her playing is utterly unique, a breath of fresh air in the cookie-cutter climes of both mainstream and free jazz.” An ever-charming presence as well as a virtuoso performer with a wide musical purview, Amanda makes her Sound It Out debut on October 27, 2018. She will be celebrating her 45th birthday by leading a band featuring trombonist Joe Fiedler along with Sean Conly and Jeff Davis. — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

Being that Kind of Blue by Miles Davis was the first jazz album I ever heard, I guess I’ll have to go with that one! I wore out at least two copies of that on cassette.

  1. What do you think is one of the most overrated jazz albums ever?

Yikes, I dunno. I try to stay positive… Although what I will say is that there are too many albums being made nowadays that sound like copies of things that have already been made years before.

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

Fair Warning by Van Halen. I was crazy about Van Halen, starting in middle school. I even got ahold of a can of spray paint and made my ballet slippers look like Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. (My ballet instructor was not pleased.)

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

Catwalk by Emily Remler. I never really checked her out when I was in high school, and I’m just starting to get into her music. What an incredible guitarist she was – it’s so tragic that she left this world at such a young age.

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’m a huge fan of Henry Mancini, and his arranging style can range from light and whimsical to downright haunting.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

On September 22, I was fortunate enough to have been at Paul Simon’s last concert of his final tour, which took place at Flushing Meadows/Corona Park. The set list included music from his early days right through to his latest album. He remains ever evolving, ever searching, and he sounds fantastic.

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

I love the Village Vanguard – it’s magical, historical, classic. As for the opposite, I dislike the Cutting Room, as it’s phony, disorganized (bands can end up going on hours after they’re supposed to) and overpriced.

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

“This shall be our response to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” — Leonard Bernstein

  1. If you could have a drink with any late visual artist of the past, who would it be?

Picasso. His long career took so many twists and turns, and his work has always fascinated me. We could also talk about those guitars he made…

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

My heart, my ears, my fingers.

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

The medication I take to treat Multiple Sclerosis. When I was first diagnosed, I had to take a shot every day, and now I only take one every two weeks. It has been such a life-changer in so many ways. For instance, it’s much easier to travel now (the medicine requires refrigeration and the TSA dislikes ice packs, let alone syringes), and I’m not beholden to always having to disrupt my life to take my medicine and deal with the inevitable side effects these medications have.

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

The New York City Jazz Record, JazzTimes and miscellaneous blogs. Also, an e-mail from an artist I admire will often inspire me to check out other musicians that he or she is working with. On a side note, Noah Baerman’s top 10 lists on his website are a lot of fun and worth checking out; he’s a walking encyclopedia of jazz and other genres, and super wise to boot.

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important to being an enduringly creative musician?

Remembering that jazz isn’t everything and that being human with personal relationships outside of the music is what makes the music great.

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

I’m a big fan of Derek Sivers, who founded the company CD Baby by accident, made a fortune on it, then sold it and is devoting his life to helping other musicians with his infinite wisdom. I also think it’s pretty cool that most of the money he made is in a trust that will go to music education after he dies.

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most despise?

The “He Who Must Not Be Named” in the White House. The damage that has been done – and will continue to happen since so many Americans are complacent and racist, as well as celebrate the stupid – is sickening.

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world?

Paris – beauty, romance, quality.

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

That’s a tough one, because I would love to have been alive to go to the clubs on New York’s 52nd Street during its 1940s and early ’50s heyday, but also to have been around to check out the downtown loft scene in the ’70s (e.g., Studio Rivbea). But my place as a woman would have been kind of rotten in those days, and I probably would have been stuck at home with the kids.

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. It’s so long, which is why I’ve only read it once!

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?

Blade Runner.

  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t yet exist?

I miss the time before cell phones and computers. I look forward to being more present, and I hope that people will get off of their “Instruments of Satan” (iOS) and really talk to each other!