From the swinging lilt of the noir-ish 3/4 ballad “Biko’s Blues” to the
freeform exchanges on “House of Return” to the Zen-like calm and
hellacious tumult of “Dizang” and the caustic skronking on “Friends of
the Animals,” violinist Jeff Gauthier covers a wide stylistic range
with his five-piece Goatette, an upstart Left Coast outfit now in its
15th year. It’s no wonder that his publishing moniker is Radical
The chameleonlike guitarist Nels Cline, noted for his own experimental
Nels Cline Singers and a valuable sideman with the high-profile rock
band Wilco, shows a tastier, more intimate side here, particularly on
the delicate Eric von Essen ballad “Biko’s Blues,” the chamberlike
acoustic closer “Dissolution” and his own ethereal soundscape “I.O.A,”
which recalls the spacious vibe of early Weather Report à la “Scarlet
Woman.” But he also lets his Hendrix-inspired freak flag fly with an
edgy, aggressive, wah-inflected solo on Gauthier’s “Friends of the
Animals” while diving headlong into some Bill Frisell-styled looping
and accelerated guitar effects on the violinist’s complex title track.
Cline pays tribute to the late Joe Zawinul on his urgent, Mysterious
Traveler-inspired “Satellites and Sideburns” and skronks up a storm on
brother Alex’s yin-yang suite “Dizang,” which also serves as a potent
vehicle for some audacious free-jazz bashing by the drumming half of
the Cline twins.
Alex fuels the proceedings with a perfect balance of power, precision
and freedom on the kit while bassist Joel Hamilton provides a solid
anchor through both the swing-oriented and “totally out” fare.
Keyboardist Dave Witham proves equally adept on acoustic piano and
slightly distorted Fender Rhodes electric piano, helping to establish
the proper mood swings from tune to tune. And Gauthier, a remarkably
lyrical player, bold improviser and adventurous spirit, establishes
himself as a formidable bandleader and force to be reckoned with.
Highly recommended for open-minded listeners and fans of genre-bending,
creative instrumental music.