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Music Review: Chris Gestrin – After the City Has Gone: Quiet

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When we think of who has influenced of our favorite musicians — and this isn't necessarily just a jazz thing — it's easy to fall back on stereotypes of the familiar. Of course Pat Metheny speaks of Jim Hall. Obviously Marilyn Crispell takes something from Cecil Taylor. All of this reasoning should be easy, a quick read of the musicians' family tree. This used to be my way of thinking until I read a Robert Fripp diary entry where he spoke of the new mini-speakers he'd found that allowed him to fully enjoy Mozart in the solitude of his hotel room.

Robert Fripp, producer of tortured guitar noise, listens to Mozart? Why, yes. In fact, he listens to almost no rock music at all. So much for comfortable stereotypes.

I read that tidbit about Fripp many years ago, but flashed right back to it while reading a recent interview with musician Chris Gestrin. In some ways, the following statement leaves you with all you need to know about his approach to music: "On a spiritual level, I derive as much satisfaction listening to AC/DC as I would listening to Shostakovich or Keith Jarrett." This seeming contradiction, a person capable of enjoying both Jarrett and AC/DC, is a clue to his listening process: he's pulls harmonic detail from a wide variety of contexts.

Chris Gestrin's ability to listen (and play!) is on full display during After The City Has Gone: Quiet. A long series of piano solos, duos, and trios, each of which begins with an idea that's allowed to play itself out. What's quite amazing about this album is that a very wide range of styles and textures are presented, and yet it all hangs together in a fairly natural way. I was not expecting this given the instruments listed: piano, prepared piano, percussion, saxophone, guitar, violin, trumpet, cello, shakuhachi, trombone, and dobro. Is this jazz? A kind of world music? You'll have to decide for yourself.

There are far too many selection here for the full track-by-track thing. Let's just say that you will find gently unwinding pensive mood pieces, 'out' ideas that make noise and dissonance fun, as well as high-energy piano pounding. Tones are layed out and given time to echo along before commentary is added. It's inspiring to see an idea lofted into the air, only to be changed up in real time and taken in completely different directions.

It strikes me that After The City Has Gone: Quiet might be one of those key recordings that'll turn someone on to the idea of improvised music. This isn't one of those "play whatever you want" kinds of things. It's instead the result of some big ears getting together to shape some ideas.

Ideas that just happen to have Shostakovich and AC/DC in common.

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