Somewhere between running the forward-looking local jazz label Cryptogramophone and co-organizing the Angel City Jazz Festival, violinist Jeff Gauthier finds time for his own ensemble. Now on the cusp of its 20th year, the Goatette again features Gauthier with longtime collaborators Nels and Alex Cline, twin brothers who have helped anchor the L.A. improvised music scene with Gauthier since the '70s.
Though Nels has since relocated to New York City, his name draws the most notice these days since joining the celebrated rock band Wilco. And while fans of Nels' unmistakable brand of galaxy-shifting guitar craft will love heavier tracks such as "Prelude to a Bite" and the menacing opener "40 Lashes (With Mascara)," it's an ensemble that's built on years of shared communication that really shines. Written by the late Eric Von Essen, "Things Past" features David Witham's piano delicately teaming with Gauthier's warm violin, and a twisting take on Ornette Coleman's "Joy of a Toy" stretches in a variety of expressive angles with the help of trumpeter John Fumo and an insistently swung rhythm from Alex Cline.
Add in a 14-minute title track that closes things out with a journey from ambient improvisation to an electrical storm of melodic drive and there's much to be said for Gauthier still making time for old friends.