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Chris Gestrin / Ben Monder / Dylan van der Schyff: The Distance

Tom Greenland By

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An elaborative collaboration, The Distance—featuring Chris Gestrin (prepared & unprepared piano), Ben Monder (eclectic guitar), and Dylan van der Schyff (percussion)—is an expansive set, demonstrating the instant and infinite affinity possible when like musical minds meet. Recorded at the 2004 Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the CD documents a fast and freely composed concert of chamber jazz.

The opening "Ferns, with Monder's spacious intro of fade-in quartal chords, kicks into "Treacle, a fast-paced note-fest of incisive legatos and descending scalar staircases, followed by "#47, with the tampered timbres of Gestrin's piano evoking the hammerings, clankings, and nail-in-the-pail sound effects of a construction site, later segueing into Chopin-esque romantic ruminations.

"Dark Engine, a duet between Monder and van der Schyff, evinces the guitarist's multifarious tonal machinations: tapped ultra-harmonics, fuzz-busting distortion, sweep-picked and pile-hammered arpeggios, and power-fifth double-stops. His solo finally shoots into the strato-caster-sphere. Gestrin then enters with a mellow tone, adding texture and context to Monder's chord melodies with rippled arpeggios of his own.

The pianist's papered strings sound sitarish on "View from the Road, now droning like an Indian tanpura, now accelerating like duple-beating tabla drums in the gat section of a raga. After "Extrinsic —with Monder's distorted exhortations and Gestrin's ambling piano—comes "The Distance, a masterful composition in the tradition of modernists such as Richie Bierach and Steve Swallow; the coup de grace of the set, the track features adventurous harmonicism and introverted excursions from both guitarist and pianist.

The classical romanticism of "Voice in the Night —in which Gestrin's teardrop tones and hands-on hammering are complemented by van der Schyff's compressed cymbalic explosions, press rolls, and turbulent tom-toms—is capped off by the closing "Second Approximation, featuring Monder's eruptive finger-tap-dancing and fluid fretboard frenetics.

The Distance is an impressive—and impressionistic—set. In spite of minimal compositional structure, this free-form free-for-all finds kindred jazzers in sync and in sympathetic simpatico with each other.


Track Listing: Ferns; Treacle; #47; Dark Engine; Treant; View from the Road; Extrinsic; The Distance; Voice in the Night; Second Approximation.

Personnel: Dylan van der Schyff: drums, percussion; Chris Gestrin: piano, prepared piano, bells; Ben Monder: electric guitar.

Title: The Distance | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings

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