Nine Winds NWCD 0214

Music for Electronics & Woodwinds
Nine Winds NWCD 0243

Meniscus MNSCS 008

Capo of modern improv in the greater Los Angeles area, multi-reedman Vinny Golia has been pursuing his singular path for the past 30 years. Master of at least 28 woodwind instruments and bossman of Nine Winds Records since 1977, Golia has composed for theatre, film and dance projects, worked with stylists as different as John Zorn, Anthony Braxton and Horace Tapscott and recorded in every imaginable format from solo to 32 piece band.

Along the way he's provided a West Coast forum for other freethinking European and North American improvisers and helped many like-minded young performers gain experience in playing freer sounds.

Golia's range is so vast, in fact, that a different stylist could be featured on each of these three discs. What unites them all however is a searching intelligence that leads to absorbing sessions.

Most "traditional" in the Free Jazz sense is LINEAGE, a piano-less quartet which features former Ornette Coleman associate Bobby Bradford on trumpet, plus Ken Filiano on bass and Alex Cline on drums. Very much in the Coleman mode, as the title suggests, the CD is no neo-con recreation however, since Golia, who wrote all of the tunes, has a less rawboned approach than Ornette's. Moreover, the four horns he uses here provide different tinctures than were available from Coleman's sole alto saxophone.

An adopted Angelo who expanded his palette working with folk rooted clarinetist John Carter and British improv drummer John Stevens, Bradford's alternately powerful and gentle tone shows that he's a lot more than "the guy who replaced Don Cherry with Ornette".

He's still a relaxed, unassuming type of soloist, however. On "Tenorphonicity", for instance, the longest track, it's Golia — on tenor saxophone — who gets involved in pyrotechnics. Content with using his muted trumpet to create a sprightly counter melody, backed by occasional scrapes from Filiano's bowed bass, Bradford only participates in the call and response when the tenorist has finished exposing his prowess. Meanwhile "Hsaibde", with its trumpet and baritone sax front line, brings back memories of Gerry Mulligan's original piano-less quartets, if they had played more challenging material.

Whether intentional on not, because of its title, "Legends, Logic, Folklore, Facts" can be heard as a tribute to Carter, whose pioneering ethno-cultural work with Bradford put a modern musical face on Diaspora African and early African-American history. Consciously using the bass clarinet or the lower register of the B flat instrument, Golia sounds nothing like Carter, though. The split tones he introduces into his solo prove that taking reed work the next step forward honors Carter more than any attempt to parrot his more measured talents.

Fittingly, the most appropriate portrait of the trumpeter's style appears on "So Close to Where You Live", which showcases his relaxed, Byronic side. Here Bradford dominates the exposition with slow-paced muted trumpet lines that inch into a livelier mid tempo, existing as counterpoint to Golia's bass clarinet. Finally blending together in a musical caress, the tune provides evidence of why Bradford has been in demand as a partner for so many woodwind masters.

Known for the abrasive fusion music he often plays with his guitarist brother Nels, Cline is the very model of sympathetic secondary lead in this playlet. It's the same with Filiano. Both only step forward when needed and seem to consciously toil to frame the front line improvisations.

Jumping ahead three years to early 2001, the duo session with electroacoustic composer Mark Trayle is another proposition all together: the image pictured in the booklet is of Golia, surrounded by a music store's stock of reed instruments, facing off against Trayle's slim line notebook computer.

Experienced in the ways of improvisers due to his past work with the likes of trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and the ROVA saxophone quartet, what Trayle brings to the table — or more fittingly the workstation — is the ability to create mechanized sonics which Golia can play with, against or use as background. Only one track, "Imparticle", is a studio creation, two others use the reedist's playing as the sound source, while the remainder was recorded live in real time.

Best showcase of this is "If you feed the bears they come back for more". Moving mostly between what sounds like tenor and baritone saxophones, Golia concentrates on multiphonics and overblowing and even sudden, upper register screeches. In response Trayle counters with some high-pitched reflecting notes, the suggestion of castanets and tambourines and what appears to be surgery performed on the inside of a mechanical toy. The electronics get so overwrought at one point, in fact, that they almost drown out a dulcet flute passage.

Other times, as on "Cheapman and the sweater he cherished", Trayle settles for what could be the equivalent of a jazzman's piano comping. Then as Golia turns out clarinet notes in the foreground, while Trayle whooshes and rumbles behind him. Elsewhere the computer suggests the sounds of kittens purring, babies crying, insects rubbing their legs together and the ever-popular blobs of electronic static. Electronics may allow Golia to appear to be dueling with himself, but a reed master like Rahsaan Roland Kirk could do that acoustically.

In truth, the two numbers that use Golia's playing as sound sources don't sound that much different than the others. On "Lazy Third Eye", it's definitely the PowerBook making the animal scratching or drum head worrying tones, but are some of the bass clarinet passages created by Golia or his electronic doppelganger? And does it really matter?

All in all, while a fascinating experiment, the CD isn't wholly successful, since Trayle's electronics seem to function more as accompaniment or decoration rather than musical partner. Perhaps a future session would remove the bugs — or is it computer viruses?

For those who want their Golia straight up if not straight ahead CLARINET should satisfy their reed cravings. Recorded in 2000 and only his second solo session ever, Golia appears to have created a sort of circular suite for clarinet reed. Expressing himself as much in the aviary reaches of the instrument as the chalumeau register, he has selected certain theoretical concepts to expose on each track and does so.

On "Collapse of the Crane", for example, in between the split tones he spits out two accompanying lines, creating with fingers and breath control what resulted from electroacoustics on the former disc. Different tracks seem to be concerned with speed, still others with melodies and others circular breathing. Additionally, he tries to see how many tones he can stick into a bar on "Rictus of Revenge" and warbles at both ends of the staff on "Back to the Interstate". Then on the slow-paced "Ape and the Spotted Salamander", Golia manages to hold single notes longer than imaginable to produce echoing overtones.

Like similar solo experiments from his associate Braxton, though, the dexterity and design that go into these nine performances should attract many people interested in new sounds, but fascinate … and frighten most clarinetists

Before he turned full time to music, Golia was a respected visual artist and these three aural paintings are merely the newest works in his ongoing art exposition.

— Ken Waxman


Track Listing: 1. Hello to Mrs. Minifield 2. Winterset 3. Tenorphonicity 4. Legends, Logic, Folklore, Facts 5. Hsaibde 6. So Close to Where You Live 7. Pierriot for Al 8. Caught by Surprise

Personnel: Bobby Bradford (trumpet); Vinny Golia (clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophones); Ken Filiano (bass); Alex Cline (drums)


Track Listing: 1. Shellfish 2. This clown is crashing 3. Cheapman and the sweater he cherished 4. If you feed the bears they come back for more 5. Imparticle 6. Signature Metric 7. Lazy Third Eye 8. Gilbert was vague 9. Behind the Fifty-five dollar face

Personnel: Vinny Golia (clarinet, bass clarinet, contras bass clarinet, flute, soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones); Mark Trayle (electronics - PowerBook running the Supercollider program)


Track Listing: 1. Joined to the Songs of Ancestry 2. Back to the Interstate 3. Ape and the Spotted Salamander 4. Darkwood Plinth 5. Collapse of the Crane 6. Rictus of Revenge 7. Momona of the Stairs 8. That's Just Billy Talk … 9. The Last One Was What The First One Should Be

Personnel: Vinny Golia (clarinet)