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November 2006

Jeff Gauthier’s Goatette
One and the Same
Cryptogramophone

Violinist Jeff Gauthier doesn’t have the most distinctive touch in the world. His is a clean, classically derived style, which can sound rather anonymous on his latest recording, One and the Same. What Gauthier can do, however, is put a band together. As he does with his record label, Cryptogramophone, Gauthier uses his band, the Goatette, to feature a bunch of underexposed West Coast improvisers who give this set a terrifically balanced, spacious and menacing sound. The band takes its cues from Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi/Warner Brothers period—to make the connection explicit, the group even covers Bennie Maupin’s “Water Torture.” Gauthier takes a few solos here and there but, by and large, he cedes the spotlight to his band.

The Cline brothers are the two most notable forces in the band. On the opener, “Ahfufat,” drummer Alex’s urgent, nearly vertiginous cymbal drive gives the tune a nervous velocity, like the sound of air rushing out of an airplane cabin. Guitarist Nels Cline (who now also plays with the rock band Wilco) plays with just a touch of gravel and pinch in an otherwise nearly clean tone, but this doesn’t stop him from pushing a sweetly melodic solo into chaos and back several times over. Pianist/keyboardist David Witham also deserves plenty of credit for generating smooth postbop on acoustic piano one moment and blasts of sci-fi synth the next. Only the kempt postbop number “Solflicka” (temporarily) breaks up an entertaining string.

Originally published in November 2006
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