While calling the music on either of these two SACDs pure jazz would be a stretch (contemporary improvisation might be more accurate), not using that term would render a grave injustice to these discs. This is music that pushes at the boundaries of what most jazz lovers expect. Both Blake and Gestrin explore improvisation that can be at once stimulating and off-putting, depending on your mental agility at the moment. Blake uses a more traditional jazz sextet made up of tenor and soprano saxes, trumpet, percussion, acoustic and electric piano, bass, and drums. Gestrin uses a multitude of musicians and instruments together with his piano in trio, duo and solo performances on his double-SACD set.
A portion of the music sounds almost pre-planned, written out, programmed (literally so with some Gestrin's work). Other selections sound like free jazz run amok. With Gestrin's "Guilty Gates" and "Moonshine Run" there is little in the way of melody to follow, yet the music, while pushing the limits of jazz almost to the breaking point, displays an improvisational spark that is the hallmark of jazz here in the 21st century.
The sound of these recordings is first-rate. Spot-on tonality, impressive image separation, and wide dynamics and space are all achieved with precision. For best results, turn the volume up a bit more than normal. In so doing, youll hear the music as if you were there, behind the mixing board.
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