Jeff Gauthier isn't the only person who has played electric avant-garde jazz on the violin (the late Billy Bang immediately comes to mind), but it is safe to say that the violin doesn't have a lot of representatives in that area of jazz. Gauthier, however, is not only accomplished as a violinist, he is also accomplished as a composer and as a group leader, and on Open Source, he once again leads the group he has had since 1992, the Goatette. Gauthier's group has had different lineups along the way; on this self-produced 2011 date, he is joined by John Fumo on trumpet, Nels Cline on electric guitar, David Witham on electric keyboards, acoustic piano, and accordion, Joel Hamilton on bass, and Alex Cline on drums and percussion. Under Gauthier's direction, the Goatette sounds cohesive but freewheeling and has a variety of pieces to have fun with -- some of them more left-of-center than others.
Open Source (which finds Gauthier on both acoustic and electric violin) is not an exercise in atonal chaos for the sake of atonal chaos, and even the most left-of-center selections have an inside/outside approach rather than a totally outside approach (including Gauthier originals that include the insistent "40 Lashes with Mascara," the ominous "Prelude to a Bite," and the quirky "Seashells and Balloons"). And on an interpretation of Ornette Coleman's "Joy of a Toy," the Goatette demonstrates that being abstract and eccentric doesn't mean that a group cannot be musical, as well. The Goatette, however, moves closer to straight-ahead post-bop on Witham's pensive "From a Rainy Night" and Eric von Essen's "Things Past." And for those who are familiar with Gauthier's history, the fact that Open Source is avant-garde one minute and more straight-ahead the next should come as no surprise. Diversity has been one of Gauthier's strong points, and it continues to serve him well on Open Source.