Chris Gestrin / Ben Monder / Dylan van der Schyff

The Distance

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    7
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Free jazz tends to be one of those love-it-or-hate-it kinds of things, but when three musicians of this caliber get together to improvise, the results can sometimes be enough to convert even the most resistant straight-ahead jazz lover. This album, a mostly improvised trio performance by guitarist Ben Monder, pianist Chris Gestrin, and percussionist Dylan van der Schyff, offers some such moments, though there are also points at which you wish they'd quit yammering and get to the point. Two of the album's strongest tracks come near the beginning, with the ironically titled "Treacle" (which sounds sharp and bitter, and almost dodecaphonic) and the fascinating "#47" (which sounds like a Czerny etude as rewritten by Anton Webern). "Dark Engine" starts off with technically impressive harmonics before dissolving into a very dark (but not terribly interesting) sort of chaos, but things start to get interesting again with the prepared piano on "Treant" and, especially, "View from the Road." "Exrinsic" is a quiet but extremely busy piece and another album highlight, while the album's title track is contemplative and very lovely. Overall, this is an album well worth hearing and one that might be used selectively to show your more skeptical friends that free jazz isn't all a bunch of hideous noise and aimless noodling.

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