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Jeff Gauthier Goatette - One and the Same

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Artist: Jeff Gauthier Goatette

Album: One and the Same

Label: Cryptogramophone

Review date: Jul. 4, 2006

Violinist Jeff Gauthier runs Cryptogramophone and has, for getting on three decades, been a stalwart of a Los Angeles creative music scene that is woefully overlooked (John Carter, anyone?). In many ways, one can account for the history of that scene’s last two decades by exploring the trajectories of Vinny Golia’s music (dense, arch, and restructuralist, whether in solo or orchestral format) and that of the ensemble Quartet Music (which featured Gauthier along with guitarist Nels Cline, percussionist Alex Cline, and the late bassist Eric von Essen). The two paths intersect often, but much of Gauthier’s own music seems focused on the latter. That’s certainly the case with his Goatette, featured here on their sophomore recording. Gauthier here plays both acoustic and electric violins, both four- and five-string, and is joined by the Cline brothers, keyboardist David Witham, and bassist Joel Hamilton.

Inattentive listeners might easily get bogged down in the pastoralism of this music, mistaking it for a lack of substance. But if you listen to the heft of the arrangements (their rhythmic complexity, the intensity of the counterlines), the multi-faceted melodies (they morph almost imperceptibly from brimming optimism to dour melancholy), and the exciting improvisations, what you hear is a rich, diverse music. The primary soloists are the leader – his clean legato and lengthy phrasing reward careful study – and the rambunctious guitarist – he never fails to impress with his range and inventiveness. Frequently their styles contrast dazzingly, as on the opening “Ahfufat – for Wan.”

But more often the music is not so much about individual soloing; rather it’s devoted to extended features for two and three players at a time. For example, Von Essen’s widely loved “Solflicka” is a bouncing, sunny theme that proves a good feature for Witham and for some of the most robust counterpoint heard here. Cline is such a fine percussionist, and he makes a great team with the round-toned Hamilton. “Rina Pt. 1” gets damn hectic in a marvelous lengthy passage spotlighting the Cline magic, also evident on the noise-heavy “Don’t Answer That,” which segues nicely in the program to the serene Gauthier/Witham piece “Heart Wisdom.” And perhaps the best group foray is on the atmospheric and funky Bennie Maupin tune “Water Torture,” which makes for great comparison with the versions heard way back when on Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi recordings. Taking in a wide range of material, the group has a consistent identity, one that gets stronger with each recording.

By Jason Bivins

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