It's the middle of vacation and New England is just beginning to dry out from days and days of flood-inducing rains. Now we've reached sixty-five degrees and partly sunny. Amazing. I've got my notebook and iPod, just hangin' out on the balcony. It almost feels weird to be out in the fresh air. Good though. I put my notebook down and for a moment stare off into the trees.
My ears take over and soak in: the chirping birds, clacking treetops, a small airplane off in the distance, power saws from the construction site at the base of the hill, the too-loud television coming from the living room (a soap opera, The Bold & The Beautiful, I think).
Now, the funny thing about all of this is that the sounds made their way in during the introduction of "Water Torture", the third track from One And The Same, the new release from The Jeff Gauthier Goatette.
Funny? What's so funny about that? Maybe "funny" isn't the right word. Fortuitous? Serendipitous? Ech!! That's so pipe & slippers! Let's just say that it was a happy coincidence.
What was interesting about the collision of music and the real world was just that. Many people — especially those not so hot on the seeming randomness of music like "Water Torture" — have no use for music that "makes no sense" to them. Fair enough. But take those random real-world noises in their totality — television + birds + construction noise + trees + a distant aircraft — and in my mind the sum is "vacation." That very same calculus can be applied to "random" musical sounds, too. The total might not be so easy to get at, but it is there.
This focus on "Water Torture" does not imply that the rest of One And The Same traffics in that arena of full-on improvisation. In fact, the song itself moves on from the scraping violin bow, electronic burbling, and bits of percussion to state a unifying theme that is used for further improvisational sections. Particularly fun is the call and response workout between leader Gauthier's violin and the bowed bass of Joel Hamilton.
While there have been some big names in world of jazz violin (Stephane Grappelli, Joe Venuti, Billy Bang, Jean-Luc Ponty, Regina Carter), Jeff Gauthier seems to bridge the gap between the traditional (Grappelli) and the avant garde (Billy Bang). The opening track, "Ahfufat – For Wan)", actually recalls early Jean-Luc Ponty, but with the group interplay of electric-era Miles Davis.
The Goatette turns out to be quite the flexible outfit. With Nels Cline (now playing with Wilco, also has a stellar "out-there" past) on guitar, David Witham (piano, keyboards, effects), Joel Hamilton (bass) and Alex Cline on drums, this group seems at east with traditional structures ("Solflicka"), angular back 'n forth ("Don't Answer That"), and extended forms (the uptempo "Rina Pt. 1" and the more pensive closing track "A Corner of Morning").
By the time I'd finished this review, the rain had moved in again. Fortunately, my mind will forever associate the music of Jeff Gauthier with this spring day's charms.