Who's Jeff Gutman? I'll tell you who Jeff Gutman is. He is one of three guys who decided to experiment with music, then later with video. They were looking for something creative to do and decided to enter a studio to record a full album of material without songs and without ever having practiced. Sound gutsy? It's not like it hasn't been done before. Free-form jazz musicians have been doing it for years. You won't find many efforts like that from rock musicians, though. Out of that entire earlier album, by the way, only two tracks have seen a "release". Both are posted on YouTube (here and here). Pretty cool and very Weaver Twins in regards to the video editing. No wonder I like them.
They call themselves J3 because their names all start with a J, but each is a musician on his own. On the two tracks, Jason Shaeffer plays guitar, Jeff Gutman plays bass and Jacob Gilchrist is on turntables. Remember, these are recorded live and unrehearsed and the video put to the music long after the fact.
I found out about the videos through Gutman himself. I reviewed an earlier album and subscribed to his mailing list and voila! There came the links. That earlier album? I was impressed. Still am, in fact. And here Gutman comes again, Through the Night an extension of No Way Back* (reviewed here).
Gutman is what I would call a dabbler. He saves ideas and riffs and lyrics until they come together practically by themselves and then sits on them for awhile before committing them to the full-fledged studio effort. Not unlike tossing various foodstuffs in a pot on the stove. It works for him, though it does take time. He had worked on No Way Back for four years before it came together. God knows how long he worked on Through the Night.
Gutman plays all the instruments on the album except for violin and background vocals courtesy of wife Dori Turner. The result? A collection of laid back songs coming from a whole string of directions. One of my favorites is the fifties-ish Run To You, a 6/8 flashback to the past, the piano stroking out the beat in chords and the melody the focus. Through the Night, dirge-like and somber, hits a reflective note thanks to sparse instrumentation (Turner's simple violin and Gutman's piano and vocal). Make It Stop alternates a beautiful verse with an intense bridge and the juxtaposition of floating and intense is key. Pull Me Down steps into Americana territory with underlying banjo and harmony vocals of note (one thing I truly love about the album is how well Gutman's and Turner's voices blend). Even the rockers are slow-tempo, Beating Heart an example of a bluesy night song with attitude.
I could point out numerous instances which impress me but what Through the Night comes down to is Jeff Gutman writes damn good songs. Sure, he has a nice voice and can play a slew of instruments (I count fourteen and that is ignoring the numerous kinds of keyboards), but being a musician does not always equal good music. Gutman has a touch all his own, musically and lyrically, as his arsenal of songs show. After hearing No Way Back and watching the J3 videos, I was sold. Through the Night, I believe, is icing on the cake.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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