Chris Gestrin (piano, prepared piano, bells), Ben Monder (electric guitar) and Dylan van der Schyff (drums & percussion).
The Vancouver International Jazz Festival is known for pairing up local artists with visiting musicians. When Songlines heard that New York guitarist Ben Monder would be coming to the 2004 festival, we proposed programming a concert with pianist/keyboardist Chris Gestrin. The festival's artistic director Ken Pickering opted for a trio with Vancouver drummer Dylan van der Schyff, a longtime Gestrin friend and associate (they can be heard together for example on Gestrin's 2002 Songlines release Stillpoint). The concert was recorded as part of a Gestrin duos/trios project, planned for release later in 2006. But when we heard the tapes, everyone felt that all the music from the concert was worth releasing. Adding two trio improvs that ended a short afternoon rehearsal, hereÕs the result, recorded and mixed in DSD.
Although Monder had never met the Vancouver musicians, certain affinities seemed to click into place. Both Gestrin and Monder are masters of jazz harmony, which is evident from the title tune; all three musicians are very sensitive to texture and timbre and the subtle give and take of free improv. The record is wholly improvised apart from two tunes each by van der Schyff and Gestrin, yet there's a cumulative sense of continuity and flow. The composed pieces tend to hover on the brink of freedom, while the improvs are fascinating as process but also strong on form. The particular character of this trioÕs music-making involves a balance between speed/dynamism and a more inward, meditative feeling, between expansiveness and concentration, abstraction and the luminous impressions of the moment, music as sound or ambience and gesture as statement. The shifting continuum between consonance and dissonance or distortion also plays a part: Gestrin's preparations (e.g. paper laid on strings in "Extrinsic"), Monder's exquisite grunge ("Dark Engine"), van der Schyff's multi-hued ringings and tappings. At times dreamlike and cinematic (terms that could also describe Stillpoint), at others almost orchestral in scope and detail, The Distance is a different kind of chamber jazz.
Chris Gestrin can also be heard with his own trio, in vocalist Kate Hammett-Vaughan's quintet, and with Randy Bachman (all on Maximum Jazz), also with Kelly Joe Phelps, Zubot and Dawson, D.O.A., K-OS, and Loudon Wainwright III; www.chrisgestrin.com.
Dylan van der Schyff has another release on Songlines, a quintet with Mark Helias, Michael Moore, Brad Turner and Achim Kaufmann, The Definition of a Toy ("exceedingly well played and executed -- a nearly pristine amalgam of free improvisation and composition, of jazz and contemporary-classical elements" --Jazz Times). He has appeared on over 30 recordings with artists such as George Lewis, Barry Guy, Mark Dresser, and Rene Lussier, and tours and records with Dave Douglas's Mountain Passages, the collaborative trio Tigersmilk (with Rob Mazurek and Jason Roebke), a duo with John Butcher, Bow River Falls (with Dave Douglas, Louis Sclavis and Peggy Lee), The Flying Deer (with Toby Delius and Wilbert de Joode), and The Unexpected (with Ron Samworth, Pierre Tanguay and Bernard Falaise), as well as Vancouver-based groups/musicians the Peggy Lee Band, the New Orchestra Workshop, Franois Houle, Brad Turner, and Talking Pictures. (Bio/discography available on request.)