This week, Philadelphia’s music community mourns the passing of one of its giants: guitarist, singer, and jazz legend, Monnette Sudler.

Born in 1952, Sudler grew up in the city’s Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood and later moved to Germantown. She was taught piano at an early age by her mother who kept a baby grand in the house for the family to practice on. Sudler picked up the guitar around 15, falling in love with the instrument and building her chops as a youth playing in various church performances. After meeting vibraphonist, Khan Jamal, and percussionist, Omar Hill in 1970, Sudler co-founded The Sounds Of Liberation, a star-studded ensemble who were at the center of Germantown’s famed, progressive jazz scene. Today, their 1972 album, New Horizons as well as their long-lost Unreleased (recorded live at Columbia University in 1973 and reissued by the Dogtown label in 2019) are regarded as classic avant-garde masterpieces.

Peter Maxwell Ochester of Dogtown and Brewerytown Beats reflects on working with Sudler on the SOL reissues: “She was a legend. We spent a lot of time together while we were doing the Sounds Of Liberation reissues. She worked closely with me to figure out all the credits and the titles to everything. Truly a legend.”

Sounds of Liberation - Keno

Throughout the decades, Sudler also enjoyed a fruitful and diverse musical career as an accompanist and leader of her own bands. An incomplete listing of the musicians that Sudler has played and recorded with includes some of the greatest talents in jazz history: Grover Washington Jr., Sunny Murray, Freddie Hubbard, Hugh Masekela, Reggie Workman, Cecil Mcbee, Archie Shepp, Sam Rivers, and Philly jazz legends like Odean Pope, Trudy Pitts, Byard Lancaster. A tireless and adventurous experimenter, Sudler’s discography is full of stylistic twists and turns, ranging from free jazz to smooth jazz, funk, and R&B.

Homer Jackson of the Philadelphia Jazz Project remembers Sudler as a skilled and versatile musician. “She was an integral part of that outrageously talented Germantown crew of players that took on the world in the late 1960s and 70s,” Jackson says. “She, like they all were, was deeply traditional and extremely experimental. She was an avant-garde artist and simultaneously an R&B musician. She was a great songwriter, composer, and bandleader. Her skills were significant.”Sudler is survived by her brothers Truman Sudler, Jr. and Duane Sudler as well as her two sons, Erik Honesty and Lamar Honesty, and three grandchildren. Monnette will also be deeply missed by the community of musicians that played with, learned from, and admired her here in Philly as well as jazz lovers around the world.

Monnette Sudler - Time For A Change