June 23, 2024

Celebrated Philadelphia jazz guitarist Monnette Sudler has died. Her son, Erik Honesty, confirmed the news to Philadelphia’s WRTI, saying the cause of death was cancer. Sudler was 70 years old.

Sudler was known for her open, free-flowing guitar style, in addition to her skills as both a backing musician and a bandleader. Born in 1952, she grew up and spent her life in Philadelphia, picking up music as a teenager. Though she was resistant to the piano, she began learning how to play the acoustic guitar at age 15, with her aunt teaching her material that the mid-1960s folk revival had popularized. Sudler’s early guitar education also included Brazillian bossa nova, with Sudler turning her attention toward jazz later in her teens.

In the early 1970s, Sudler began playing music with vibraphonist Khan Jamal, a collaboration that became the funky free jazz ensemble Sounds of Liberation as other musicians joined their jams. Sudler issued her first album as a bandleader, Time for a Change, in 1977, following it with Brighter Days for You the next year. After earning her undergraduate degree, she returned to Philadelphia to earn a master’s degree from Temple University.

Outside her own material, Sudler was a busy collaborator, performing with Hugh Masekela, Archie Shepp, and more. Sudler continued to record, perform, and teach throughout the rest of her life, releasing several more records and founding the Philadelphia Guitar Summit. In 2013, Sudler underwent a double lung transplant after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. Her final album was 2021’s Stay Strong.


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