Jeff Gauthier / Jeff Gauthier Goatette

One and the Same

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Violinist Jeff Gauthier has been quietly making records for about eight years. His last project with the Jeff Gauthier Goatette comprised of guitarist Nels Cline, his brother, drummer Alex, bassist Joel Hamilton, and pianist/keyboardist David Witham. As on 2002's shining Mask, Gauthier and his band delve deep into exotic textures and musics here, not as trope or gimmick, but as compositional and improvisation modus operandi. We're not talking Les Baxter or Martin Denny, we're talking genres. There's classical, which becomes the steady meandering melody line in the opener "Ahfufat," as Nels goes mental in the background and Alex offers a triple time signature for everything to drop from before the work pulses toward something else entirely -- a particularly knotty jazz-rock. It's beautiful, barely held on the rail, but is also light and airy. As has been Gauthier's and Nels and Alex Cline's wont, a fine post-fusion jazz tune by the late Eric von Essen is present, "Solflicka," and is performed with elegance, grace, and a harmonic sense of adventure with Gauthier leading the way. The foreboding sense of terror in Bennie Maupin's "Water Torture," with its built, and then extrapolated upon series of tensions, is easily one of the most frightening in recent vanguard jazz history. Hamilton's bass anchors a deafening space that is touched upon by fleeting, angry instrumental flourishes before being indulged with a skeletal, and brief, melody. It becomes pure cinematic dynamic as Nels' flurries in the background become almost indecipherable from Witham's keyboard textures. "Don't Answer That" is post-bop à la Eric Dolphy and Mal Waldron. Witham's piano work here is just stellar. The multivalent journey in "Rina, Pt. 1" is part gypsy jazz, part funky open-mode Miles, and part folk song with a great head -- also written by von Essen. The set ends on Nels Cline's ballad "A Corner of Morning." It commences with spacious abstraction played in wispy phrases by all instruments; it's improvisation with a pronounced yet restrained drama, and it is absolutely serene. When the lyric whispers in, it's like Bill Evans constructing one of those gentle harmonic towers as Witham and Nels enjoin and rejoin one another in counterpoint. Three-fourths of the way in, Gauthier signals both another period of abstraction and its new melodic frame, droning against Nels' changes before an absolutely heartbreaking solo in open mode as Hamilton and Alex dust the backdrop, accenting the space as the place of encounter and transformation. More accessible than Mask, One and the Same is for those who like their vanguard jazz on the safer side. It is a logical step forward for Gauthier, given Mask's textural and dynamic investigations, but a large one nonetheless, and one of the more haunting new jazz releases to push itself forth from that sonic garden in a long while.

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