October 2, 2019
Miller Wrenn Escapist
pfMentum PFM CD 121
Patrick Shiroishi/Vinny Golia/Dylan Fujioka /Alex Cline
Astral Spirits MF 205/AS 101S
Both of these CDs were recorded in the Los Ange3les area and both feature multi-reedist Vinny Golia. Other than that they’re as different as night and day; or maybe “Night and Day” interpreted by either John Cage or Albert Ayler.
Alternates is a debut session by LA bassist Miller Wrenn, who works both in the improv and notated music field with the likes of Mark Menzies Joe LaBarbera and Golia, here playing bass clarinet, with the group filled out by Ethan Marks on trumpet and piccolo trumpet, guitarist Caleb Veazey and percussionist Clint Dodson, Mostly moderato and solemn the arrangement of tonal colors is more concerned with precision than uncontrolled improvisation. Just the opposite Borasisi is two long tracks of turbulent, freeform blowing. Besides Golia, who plays a couple of saxophones, and his long-time foil, percussionist Alex Cline, the other improvisers are drummer Dylan Fujioka and saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi, who often perform as the duo In the Womb, with Shiroishi also involved in a clutch of other LA-based solo and group projects.
Apparently more concerned with mood definition than forward motion, Wrenn’s six-part suite ambles quietly and languidly. Muted trumpet expression, percussion splatters, guitar strums and pointillist reed extensions are upfront with bowed double bass lines and the dusting of vibraphone shimmers floating alongside. Some of the tracks are set up as mini-concertos with Marks’s half-valve and body-tube blows featured on “Alternates Part Four”, and similar showpieces for a sequence that moves from moderato sawing and sul tasto string pops backed by formal bass clarinet coloratura and doubled by muted trumpet on “Alternates Part Two”. A few drum press rolls and guitar flanges appear throughout, and there’s even a final section where Golia’s overblowing takes on accordion-like inflation. But overall the program finishes as it began with vibe color and trumpet grace notes predominating until the narrative slips away.
There are no particular themes or even brass work on Borasisi, except for an approximation of bugle calls from both saxes at the end of the program. But that isn’t the point of these improvisations. Instead the idea is to see how many multiphnics, intense vibrations and irregular diffusions can be packed into the two tracks. Sometimes both saxophonists work in tandem, other times they’re involved in a frenetic do-see-do as one blows in a harsh altissimo mode, sliding up and down the scale, while the other adds diaphragm-pressured circular breaths and slurps to further color the forward motion. Meanwhile the two percussionists crash their cymbals and rumble their kits with rubs, paradiddles and rebounds, especially on “Left Eye Moon”.
At the same time even if Shiroishi and Golia introduce tropes such as spetrofluctuation, split tones and, notably on that same track, protracted horizontal shrilling at the highest pitch, they never lose control. Fascination lies in charting how it appears that each is playing two saxophone lines at the same time for multiple harmonies or how a near-nasal crying soprano saxophone trill can be burnished with textural affiliations from a tenor saxophone to complete the improvisation. This final reed sequence’s descent from excitable to ambulatory and marks narrative completion. Still, a coda of bugle-call-like brassiness signals that the quartet four could quickly start up again.
These CDs are valuable for giving exposure to lesser-known Angelo musical thinkers Shiroishi and Wren. As well, that city’s improvisational scene appears varied enough so that each can profitably pursue a musical vision diametrically opposed to the other’s.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Alternates: 1. Alternates Part One 2. Alternates Part Two 3. Alternates Part Three 4. Alternates Part Four 5. Alternates Part Five
Personnel: Alternates: Ethan Marks (trumpet, piccolo trumpet); Vinny Golia (bass clarinet); Caleb Veazey (guitar); Miller Wrenn (bass) and Clint Dodson (drums, vibraphone)
Track Listing: Borasisi: 1. Right Eye Sun 2. Left Eye Moon
Personnel: Borasisi: Patrick Shiroishi (tenor and soprano saxophones): Vinny Golia (tenor and sopranino saxophone); Dylan Fujioka (drums) and Alex Cline (drums, percussion)