VINNY GOLIA LARGE ENSEMBLE

The Other Bridge (Oakland 1999)
Nine Winds NWCD 0210/0220

Sun, surf, sand, stars … Los Angles has many things going for it. But being recognized as a major jazz composer/performer while living there isn't one of them.

That's the situation that has faced multi-reedist Vinny Golia, who has been based in California for the past 30 years. Focused towards New York, the so-called jazz industry has little time for anything else. Which means that innovations taking place in such diverse locations as Toronto, Chicago, Bologna or Liverpool also become marginalized. It can even more difficult for those near LAX, which after all is the epicentre of the commercial music biz. Heck, the mailing address of Golia's innovative Nine Winds label is even in Beverly Hills. Luckily its zip code isn't 90210.

So, despite the fact that he has turned out scores of impressive albums featuring his compositions in situations ranging from solo recitals to the 26-piece big band showcased here, Golia still isn't as acclaimed as he should be. And we're all the poorer for it.

For this two CD set — which melds all the hues available from a clutch of multi-instrumentalists plus a classical tinge — is easily the equal of better-known large band efforts by such "eastern" composers as Anthony Braxton or Simon H. Fell. Additionally, comparing his work to that of certain Pulitzer Prize winning jazz bandleaders just puts the latter's attempts even further into the shade. Not that there's a contest going on. Golia's 12 creations can easily fall, or as is the case here rise, on their own merits.

Recorded live as part of the 10th annual Eddie Moore Festival at Yoshi's in Oakland, Calif. — another less-than-fashionable area — the sound is a little murky, as can be expected from an on location performance.

For this performance Golia collected a big jazz band of some of his regular associates — flugelhornist Rob Blakeslee, trombonist Mike Vlatkovich, saxophonists Kim Richmond and ROVAman Steve Adams, keyboardist Wayne Peet, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Alex Cline — and filled the sections with selected woodwind and string players. Those section types aren't there as Kentonian window dressing either. Not only do the strings and horns create an impression by building overtures, interludes and transitions in many tunes, most prominently between the two parts of "The Village of Forgotten Men", but several also prove themselves as impressive soloists.

Especially notable is violinist Harry Scorzo, who gets to shine on "Bot" and "Master of the Playing Cards". With a diamond hard tone capable of cutting through the masses of other instruments, he directs most of his upper register improvisations skyward and on "Bot" even knocks out some fleet pizzicato passages, hindered only a bit by the rough live recording sound.

Cline and Filiano's note-perfect backing work doesn't have to be commented on anymore, but kudos should go to Dave Johnson for his ringing marimba work on "The Evasion of Chaos" and Peet for revealing hitherto unknown talents on organ ("Push The Machine") and theremin (the "Something Heard" transition).

Swinging call and response interludes from the different sections get things going when the pulse should be goosed. Plus a few of the jazzers strut their stuff as well. Richmond's go-for-broke alto lines demand attention on "Thread for Fred" and elsewhere, as do trombonist Vlatkovich's gutbucket flights over consolidated strings and percussion on the same tune.

In short, this is the sort of session that calls for hearing and rehearing from everyone not blinded by regionalism. Now, if only Golia could bring a band of this size into a pristine, state-of-the-art recording studios. Who knows what sonic wonders might result?

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing:

Disc 1:

1. No one had ever waved to a lifeless object before 2. Thread for Fred 3. Something Heard 4. The Evasion of Chaos part Two 5. Bot 6. The Evasion of Chaos Part One

Disc 2:

1. Japur 2. Push the Machine 3. The Village of Forgotten Men Part One 4. The Village of Forgotten Men Part Two 5. RIP 6. Master of the Playing Cards

Personnel: Jeff Kaiser, John Fumo, Rob Blakeslee (trumpets, flugelhorns); Mike Vlatkovich, Danny Hemwall, Scott Ray (trombones); Bill Roper (tuba); Kim Richmond (soprano and alto saxophones, clarinet, flute; Vinny Golia (piccolo, flutes, sopranino, soprano, baritone and bass saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet); Bill Plake (piccolo, flute, tenor saxophone); Steve Adams (flute, bass flute, sopranino, soprano and alto saxophones); Sarah Shoenbeck (bassoon); Paul Sherman (English horn); Eric Barber, Alan Lechusza, Tara Speiser (woodwinds); Wayne Peet (keyboards, theremin, organ piano); Harry Scorzo, Jeff Gauthier (violins); Colin Pearson, Guenevere Measham, Jonathan Golove (cellos); Ken Filiano (bass); Dave Johnson (percussion, marimba); Brad Dutz, Alex Cline (drums, percussion); Stephanie Henry, Vinny Golia (conductors)