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Monday, January 14, 2008

Chris Gestrin - After The City Has Gone: Quiet (Songlines, 2007) *****

What a wonderful album! Canadian pianist Chris Gestrin invites fellow Canadians over for some intimate free pieces, with extreme emotional depth and musical explorations, all quiet, tentatively, on tip-toe, ... The ambiguity of the title "After The City Has Gone: Quiet" is also reflected in the music. Is this music for deep pain after the irrevocable destruction of a city, funereal music in remembrance of and respect for the dead, or is it all night music, to be played softly so as not to disturb those sleeping? It's hard to tell, but the music could reflect both feelings of loss and quiet. And the improvization takes many forms : solo, duo, trio with the following musicians : Joseph Pepe Danza on shakuhachi, percussion, hang and ney; Ron Samworth on guitar; Miles Black on piano; Peggy Lee on cello; Jon Bentley on saxophones; Bernie Arai on drums; Gordon Grdina on guitar and dobro; Bill Clark and JP Carter on trumpets; Jeremy Berkman on trombone, Jesse Zubot on violin; Dylan van der Schyff on drums. Although the overall mood and musical approach is very similar on all tracks, generating a strong sense of unity, the always changing line-up leads to some surprising angles of approach, not only borrowing from various musical heritages, ranging from straight-ahead jazz over blues and middle-eastern music to more zen-like meditational pieces, but also using the various instruments and the musicians' skills to explore timbre, texture, harmonic changes. For most tracks no pre-conceived patterns or melody seem to have been prepared, yet the interplay and the guest musicians' ability to step into Gestrin's approach and dig into it, is astonishing. The overall effect is positively unique : minimalistic and rich, sweet-sounding free improv. Highly recommended.

Listen and download from eMusic.