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Chris Gestrin: The Distance

Chris Gestrin: The Distance

Songlines  SGL 1557-2

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Jazz


"The Distance"

Chris Gestrin (piano, prepared piano)
Ben Monder (electric guitar)
Dylan van der Schyff (drums, percussion)

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Review by Mark Werlin - February 8, 2024

Compositions on the brink of freedom that paint luminous impressions of the moment

Audiophiles like to show off their systems with demonstration records that extend to the deepest lows and the highest highs. On most jazz albums, the lowest notes are played on the upright bass and the highest notes on saxophones or trumpet. But “The Distance”, a trio recording by Chris Gestrin, piano, Ben Monder, electric guitar, and Dylan van der Schyff, percussion, demonstrates an audio system’s middle frequencies capability.

Recording a grand piano in a real acoustic space can be a challenge for engineers, and to reproduce the particular piano sound that serves a composer’s intentions is even more difficult to achieve. In “The Distance”, Gestrin’s piano is recorded in an unusually well-balanced mix with Monder’s electric guitar played in its middle range with the treble knob turned down. The result is a sonic fabric woven out of mid-frequency colors; the sparkle is provided by Dylan van der Schyff’s cymbals. The subtle interplay among the musicians brings out the best qualities of the compositions.

The album opener, “Ferns”, a tentative dialogue between the piano and guitar, gives way to the full trio in “Treacle”, featuring an Ornette Coleman-like head melody played in off-the-beat unison. While the traditional piano/bass/drums trio spotlighted the pianist as the lead soloist (until the Bill Evans Trio with bassist Scott LaFaro broke the mold), here, the trio is fully ‘decentered’. Each member of the ensemble has an equal voice. Close listening and support of each other’s solos follows jazz rather than free improvisation conventions. During Ben Monder’s solo, Gestrin pounds out chords low on the keyboard. The return to the head firmly establishes the jazz character of the piece.

Chris Gestrin’s title track, “The Distance”, with its ambiguous harmonic center, resonates to the sound of mid-1960s post-bop. The thoughtful dialogue between Gestrin and Monder, and the subtle support from van der Schyff make this a standout on the album. It rises to the top of my post-2000s jazz playlist, and deserves to be considered a new jazz standard.

If you’ve never heard of Chris Gestrin, check out the discography on his website. The stylistic range of his musical activities as a performer and mastering engineer is astonishing – he’s a “most valuable player” in the Vancouver music scene.

Songlines’ original DSD recording, engineered and mixed to 2.0 and 5.0 by Graemme Brown, captures the details of guitar bathed in reverb, and accurately represents a grand piano set in a resonant acoustic. Since the drum kit is set back from the piano and guitar amp, as it would be in a live performance, you’ll want to turn up the volume to appreciate the fullness and warmth of the sound textures.

Most Songlines SACDs are still in stock at our site partners; purchasing through the posted links helps to support this site. Music lovers who prefer hi-res and DSD files can find Songlines albums at download vendors in the EU and North America.

Copyright © 2024 Mark Werlin and HRAudio.net

Performance:

Sonics (Stereo):

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