House of Return is violinist Jeff Gauthier’s fifth release as the leader of this group. The band includes Gauthier (also producer), Nels Cline on guitar, David Witham on keyboards, Joel Hamilton on bass, and Alex Cline on percussion. As any unconventional music lover knows, each of these musicians has a long resume outside of this band, and the versatility and adventurousness of the musicians is well-represented on this release. The Jeff Gauthier Goatette’s sound is reminiscent of that of Weather Report, and in fact the Zappa-ish “Satellites and Sideburns” is an homage to the recently deceased Joe Zawinul.
The pieces on this CD vacillate between fusion and free, or improvisational jazz. Gauthier plays both acoustic and electric violin on this release. Like most improvisational music, many of the pieces lack a regular rhythm. Notable tracks include:
The first track is “Biko’s Blues.” It is the most conventionally “jazz” of the tracks on this recording. It begins with keyboards and the violin creeping in. This duet with the piano is then followed by a composition such that no one instrument stands out. This is followed by a violin solo, a syncopated sound over the steady drone of the rest of the quartet. Standard bass and guitar solos in this piece allow for a fitting introduction to each musician’s work in this project.
The second track is “Friends of the Animals.” The sound is much more complex, reminiscent of animal sounds. “I.O.A.” follows, a quieter, dreamy piece, a soundscape. The violin peeks in with quiet trills and arpeggios.
The fourth track, “House of Return,” is also ambient at the beginning, but breaks into a lively free for all. The violin solo in “Dizang” breaks my heart – a melody above an atonal soundscape drifting into more melodic sound. Parts of this piece, like all great experimental jazz, elicit anxiety in the listener.
Free jazz fans will find this a necessary addition to their collection.