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Album Review

On his third outing as a leader, violinist Jeff Gauthier offers a stellar blend of compositions that push at the boundaries of defined musics, while not consciously breaking any of them. Accompanied by brothers Alex and Nels Cline on drums and guitars respectively, pianist David Witham, and bassist Joel Hamilton, Gauthier's Goatette is a blend of jazz exotica (not in the cheeky sense of the word, but the most profound) that winds through not only his own compositions but those of Ornette Coleman ("Enfant"), the late Eric von Essen, and Alex Cline. "Clea's Bounce" opens the disc with a riveting five/four time signature shimmying through the middle by Witham before Gauthier enters with a funky and angular melodic line that Nels Cline underscores, creating a new rhythmic line. Next comes the von Essen tune, "Waltz for K.P.," in a slippery jazz waltz tempo with numerous harmonic twists along the impressionistic melody, which seems present and invisible at the same time. Witham's chromaticism is especially beguiling here, and it lilts then accents then floats above the rhythm section. Coleman's "Enfant," from the Ornette on Tenor album, is given an interesting treatment here. The ensemble looks at this piece in light of harmolodics, a musical theory of harmony Coleman hadn't articulated until over ten years after this piece was recorded. Witham moves through the various open-ended harmolodic chords as the rest of the ensemble interacts with them before Gauthier and Nels go after one another on a theme. The next two tracks are among the most beautiful on the recording: "The Fools," by Nels Cline, is a haunting, 12-string piece with a wide-open, almost impressionistic figure that is filled in impressively by Hamilton's bass solo. The other is Gauthier's own "Ephemera." Again Cline plays 12-string and the feel is one of Oregon's music from the mid-'70s (Music of Another Present Era — Cline does a mean Ralph Towner on the 12-string) with shards of Keith Jarrett's chromatic method modalism and the deep lyricism of Bill Evans. The ensemble plays together in such a moving, fluid way the work becomes meta-textual, reaching outside music to embrace different cultural artifacts and languages in order to turn them back into collective expression. In this way, this track is the hinge of the entire album, bringing in the voices of not only jazz, but of folk music and those not yet created — speaking in poetic, sensual languages and whispering in nuances that are unmitigated by jazz, folk music, or improvisation; yet they exist because of them. "Mask" is a four-part work which is too complex — yet glorious — to go into here; one would need an entire essay to devote to the beauty and mystery of its articulation. With the final work, Alex Cline's "Forgiveness," a seemingly simple tone poem, the album meditatively comes to a close on the theme of silence and peace. What better way to cap an exploration that while universal in its appeal is also full of vulnerable individual and collective expression? With this album as only the latest evidence in tow, Cryptogramophone is issuing some of the most exciting, appealing, and unclassifiable music today.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Composer, producer, and improvising violinist Jeff Gauthier grew up in West L.A., where he first picked up a violin while he was still in grade school. Gauthier's first teacher on the instrument was his aunt, and in time he began studying the instrument with Armand Roth, who held the first violin chair with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In middle school Gauthier fell under the spell of improvising hard rock artists like Jimi Hendrix and the British trio Cream, which in turn led him to the jazz fusion...
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Mask, Jeff Gauthier
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