Review by Stewart Smith in The Wire (July 2018)

Trajectory finds Los Angeles creative music hero Vinny Golia collaborating with former students, but there’s no sense of master-apprentice hierarchy here – Golia thrives on his bandmates’ energy, incorporating their muscular avant rock into his own language. I’ve always found math rock to be hopelessly uptight, but fusing it with jazz tends to loosen it up, as voices break free from the rigid geometric structures. And so it proves here, with Golia, alto saxophonist Gavin Templeton and trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom veering from taut motivic playing to freewheeling escapades while the rhythm section powers along like a jazz metal cyborg.

Guitarist Alexander Noice has a nice line in mellow fusion comping and bludgeoning power chords, but his most interesting contributions are the eerie electronic effects he brings to the atmospheric “Ugly Bags Of Mostly Water” and “Gift Of The Nile”, where Golia’s flutes and prayer bowls orient the music towards the Fourth World. The final tracks eschew rock for semi-acoustic jazz. Golia’s writing is as complex as ever, but there’s a palpable sense of joy as the group swing out.

It’s serendipitous that Golia’s new music should arrive alongside Dark Tree’s archival release of a 1979 session featuring the multi-instrumentalist in concert with another inter-generational band. In this case, Golia is the emerging artist, recruiting his mentors Bobby Bradford and John Carter alongside Don Ellis and Frank Zappa affiliated trombonist Glenn Ferris to perform pieces commissioned by the Independent Composers Association.

As Golia stated at the time, the music is based on traditionally notated themes, while the harmonic material is generated through group improvisation. Having come up through bebop, Bradford and Carter have the harmonic expertise to develop sharply defined parts around the compositional framework, while the spontaneous interplay they developed in New Art Jazz Ensemble and their duo performances ensures the music maintains its energy and invention.

All four musicians deploy a host of unusual effects – the gurgle and pop of Golia’s bass clarinet and baritone sax, the raspy glisses of Carter’s clarinet, the sharp glances of Bradford’s cornet, the greasy smears of Ferris’s trombone – teasing apart the carefully constructed harmonies and counter-rhythms, before assimilating them into the whole. The complexity of the quartet’s fugue-like forms can be dizzying, but the melodies leave a strong impression, not least on “The Victims (For Steve Biko)”, where the elaborate contrapuntal structures of the previous pieces give way to colouristic support for Golia’s reflective alto flute. A superb document of the 1970s Los Angeles avant garde. I might prefer the 1979 recording, but it’s fascinating to hear these albums back to back, observing their continuities and differences, and the consistent strength and character of Golia’s writing and playing.


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