Born in 1962 in New York City, Monder started out on the violin before switching to guitar around age 11. After high school, he studied first at the Westchester Conservatory of Music, and later at Queens College and the University of Miami. By the mid-'80s, he had embarked on his professional career, playing early on with organist Jack McDuff, and then with artists like Lee Konitz, Maria Schneider, and Paul Motian. As a leader, Monder released his trio's debut, Flux, featuring bassist Drew Gress and drummer Jim Black, in 1995. A collaboration with vocalist Theo Bleckmann, No Boat, appeared a year later. Dust, Monder's second trio album, came out in 1997 and found bassist Ben Street replacing Gress. The following year, he joined Gress' Jagged Sky ensemble for Heyday.