Ken Waxman // JazzWord (6 août 2018)

Cynosure of the new, Los Angeles’ reputation for adopting the most current trends in everything from diet to architecture to music of all stripes means that the lifestyle of the area is in a constant churn. That’s why multi-reedist Vinny Golia is such a singular figure there. As musical fashions and players come-and-go, he’s remained emblematic of the creative music scene in the city since he moved there about 40 years ago. On his own he’s collaborated with many of the most advanced players in the area and fronted groups ranging from duos to big bands. These releases pinpoint his continued musical consistency and his ability to adapt many styles to fit the creative impulse.

Recorded in 1979, Live at the Century City Playhouse is an all horns date, done around the time during which such configurations were being widely tested. Playing bass clarinet, baritone saxophone C and alto flutes and piccolo, Golia’s co-improvisers are trombonist Glenn Ferris, who has worked with everyone from Frank Zappa to Don Ellis and two veterans of the L.A. Free Jazz scene: cornetist Bobby Braford and clarinetist John Carter, both of whom had first-hand early associations with Ornette Coleman. Advance approximately four decades – no recording date is listed – and Golia, who is now too an elder statesman, performs on the two-CD set Trajectory, with five associates who had been his students –brass player Daniel Rosenboom, saxophonist Gavin Templeton, guitarist Alexander Noice, bassist Miller Wrenn and percussionist Andrew Lessman. Constantly expand his instrument collection, Golia here plays sopranino, Bb, G soprano, tenor, baritone saxophones, G, Eb, contra alto clarinets, Eb flute, Fujara, bull roarer, Zun, gongs, bells, singing bowl and bass drum.Creating a less austere variant of the thorny Free Jazz which Carter and Bradford had been perfecting since the late 1960s, the quartet’s improvisations on Live at the Century City Playhouse are cleanly harmonized with every texture clearly audible and interlocked. On a track like “#2”, for instance, Golia’s vaporous flute flutters and Carter’s peeping arabesques create a running commentary on the contrapuntal theme, expressed chromatically through heartfelt moans from Bradford and Ferris’ growled pitches. Resolution comes when Golia’s baritone saxophone shronks apply a thickened coda to the tone distribution. On other tracks the marching band history of the wind instruments is explored in full, as the four frequently unravel themes which owe much to processional or marching band expressions. Of course no matter how many times the quartet is involved in these semi-regularized expositions, the multiphonic and multi-pitched variables consistent with more exploratory sounds are as prominent. Moving from reed to reed, Golia can sometimes approach the formality of a Jazzer, recasting a melody from the standards tradition, or elsewhere, especially when using his lower-pitched horns, crunch out earth-shaking tones that brush up against Carter’s studied euphony or Ferris’ plunger polyphony.

Live at the Century City Playhouse’s most convincing improvisation occurs on “Chronos I”, with Golia depending on piccolo power to further disentangle the coloratura concerto set up for Carter. Using a combination of freak notes and flutter tonguing, the clarinetist pulls original lines from his reed, meeting at various times contrapuntal challenges from bugle-like fanfares from the cornetist, measured snorts from the trombonist and a cornucopia of antiphonal textures from the piccolo. Eventually, as the others are also briefly showcased, what could be called Concerto for Carter expands enough to leave a memorable impression.

Impressions are just as indelible on the 16 tracks that make up Trajectory, but imbued with timbral differences. Besides Golia collecting and utilizing more reeds and percussion, the rhythmic sensibility is altered more by the looming spectre of Rock as well as Jazz; plus that guitar effects, electric bass suppleness and varied percussion attacks further democratize the improvisational proceedings. Noice’s guitar work, for instance, expands the spectrum from single-string melodic Barney Kessel-like accompaniment with an acoustic double bass solo and polished flutter tonguing from Golia’s soprano saxophone on “Dr. Loomis, Welcome Back To The Hospital” to clamorous lead guitar motion with pedal distortion on “Ananaki (What They Left …?)” which concentrates on an allegiance to Frank Zappa-like Jazz-Rock with the lead guitar kicks introducing fluttery trumpet coloration in almost concert keys that is uniquely provides counterpoint to torqued reed explosions, all of which is stacked upon a baritone sax bottom.

The tracks which depend on rock-sock, jumping rhythms spectacularly show off the sextet’s virtuosity, but so do the more measured interactions. For example “Gift of the Nile” is introduced with a ghost-like combination of high-pitched flute breaths, clinking drums and moderated bass thumps that soon build up to knob-twisting buzzes and splatters from the guitar and horn vibrations. In the same way, “The Penabus (Going To Leyte Soon, Can You Get Me One?)” is mercurial enough to climax with guitar flanging and percussion shakes, but begins with an atmospheric scene-setting of layered trumpet and tenor saxophone reflections.

Truthfully though, those pieces which best express the mature considerations of the sextet are those which downplay Rock inflections for Jazz expressiveness. “Sparks Of Dare … For Elizabeth Or Eleanor (Have You Ever Been To Roanoke?)” and “Night Time Messages (Not Exactly As Planned but Still OK …)” both break through their polyphonic and polyrhythmic shapes to isolate distinctive reed encounters, the first between contra alto clarinet and alto saxophone, and the second between clarinet and alto saxophone. Unparalleled excitement is added to “Sparks Of Dare …” with trumpet peeps and clip-clap drum patterns, with the finale finding the others turning tonally upwards as Golia propels foghorn-like snorts across the sound field. As for “Night Time Messages…” the flutter tonguing and doubled reed vibrations are eventually harmonized, so that a coloratura theme elaboration twists and turns enough with to connect with Noice’s plectrum pacing.

Maintaining a front-row position with every type of improviser in the Los Angeles area has led Golia to experiment with nearly every size and shape of band and texture. As different as these discs are, they demonstrate his consistency. But it may have been helpful for comprehension if Trajectory’s track titles were less like extended in-jokes.

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