Nels Cline / Vinny Golia / Michael Vlatkovich / Alex Cline / Scott Walton

July 12, 2004

One, Three, Two

Jazz’halo TS018/19

Recorded at three different concerts in Belgium on September 12, 13 and 15, 2001, ONE, THREE, TWO is a creditable quintet session, which, considering the date, not surprisingly lacks some of the go-for-broke energy multi-reedist Vinny Golia brings to many of his other discs.

Still the cohesion of the band is evident on the 11 Golia compositions written expressly for this instrumentation, that are spread over two CDs with almost 2½ hours of music. However, a combination of ennui regarding the situation in the United States, and concert necessities, which seems to necessitate contributions from each musician on nearly every tune, means that some pieces and solos are overly extended. Considering that Golia had been playing with brothers, guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Alex Cline since 1976, expressive trombonist Michael Vlatkovich since 1981 and bassist Scott Walton for at least five years at that point, no sound is less than thoroughgoing professional, though. And many of the pieces are outright exciting.

Significantly enough, Disc 2, which was all recorded at the final concert, is livelier and more cohesive than what appears from two earlier shows on Disc 1. Additionally that disc’s final four numbers showcase the energy and skill of the band at its zenith.

Particularly impressive are the back-to-back “Make it Snappy” and “Yari”. Beginning with a peeping clarinet run, the former soon finds Golia pitch shifting and producing double-tongued, hocketing glissandos. Followed by plunger ‘bone blasts and march time drum rolls, the reedman then introduces stop time irregular trills that move up the scale and are extended with circular breathing. Linking this to “Yari”, Golia, on flute and the trombonist’s tones intertwine in front of walking bass lines

Given his head, Vlatkovich embarks on an extended slurred solo, initially facing counterlines from the flute and flailing fills from guitarist Cline. But as he begins burrowing into the bottom of the horn, Golia piccolo twitters take the top part, drummer Cline jazzily bounces his snares and makes his cymbals sizzle, Walton double stops and the guitarist outlines a Joe Pass-meets-Herb Ellis solo, all slurred fingering and speedy fills.

These distorted runs radiate all over “Bridge Made of Waters”, with fretman Cline’s distortions and tremolos adding to the textures smeared, blown out and ratcheted by the others instruments. Earlier, one of the musicians provided some atmospheric grunts and on “The Happy”, Walton slaps his bass. The trombonist adds to the retro feel on this blues by alternating Frank Rosolino-like pecks and Vic Dickenson-like slurs, while Golia turns from producing a pinched, staccato sopranino trill to stomping, stop time Southwestern tenor tones. Coupled with ringing guitar work, this track could prove to any naysayer that exploratory musicians are just as capable of swinging as neo-con jazzbos. Would that this animation had extended to all the tunes on both discs.

Elsewhere, it’s often Vlatkovich’s melding of post-bop speed with tailgate-style emotion that provides the spark on many other tunes. Moving among his various horns, Golia too can join in for some call-and-response fire, but when earlier pieces clock in at least 17 minute plus, some of the momentum is lost after every player contributes a solo.

“On Behalf of My Benefactors”, the longest track at 20 plus minutes, certainly ends up this way. Contrapuntal textures moving back and forth between polyphonic ‘bone slurs and whistling reed lines meets woody bass tones and finger tip picking from Nels Cline. Golia then introduces a chirping, circular soprano timbre that accelerates to panpipe tones and sideslips into other keys. Following pummeling rolls, paradiddles and flams from the drummer and an echoing guitar chord, a quarter note bass line stabilizes the piece into a swing tune with the trombonist tonguing out speedy breaks and Golia chirping and smearing his notes. Still Vlatkovich’s triplet display pales a bit whenever other players have to get their licks in before the tune ends.

As with much of his other sideman work, especially with Golia, Nels Cline keeps his guitar hero showmanship to a minimum here, sticking mostly to complementary finger style forays rather than distorted, single string reverb. Brother Alex is similarly restrained, providing shuffle rhythms and a heavy backbeat when needed, otherwise expressing himself through inventive percussion forays, as early on when his traps output take on a resemblance to a gamelan. When not walking, Walton rasps out resonant accompaniment. And the three generally free up enough space for Golia and Vlatkovich to soar.

Among his many horns, the reedist can be relaxed or intense on soprano, emphasize higher-pitched ney-like tones from the same instrument and on tenor create snorting obbligatos, which are still more Teddy Edwards than Trane. On clarinets he jumps from slurred and squeaky coloratura tones to Morse code-like compressed single notes and choked squeals.

Meanwhile the trombonist smoothly bends notes at certain places, sneaks up the scale with a thinner tone, double tongues at others, and can create his own call and response with two distinct sounds. Shoving a mute deep within his bell and pulling it out just as quickly, he moves from a buzz to purr. Elsewhere it appears as if he’s vibrating the bell directly against a thin metal sheet for some lowering rubato tempos.

Although some of material on the first disc is weaker, Disc 2 is still essential for all Golia followers or fans or first-class improvisational music. And, come to think of it, less than perfect Golia Quintet sounds are still better than much of the music being marketed as jazz these days.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Disc One: 1. Hexo-Lateral (for Buckminster Fuller) 2. None That Are Giants 3. While All Are Away 4. On Behalf of My Benefactors 5. Prelude to the Orphans Disc Two: 1. Drum in the Circle of Stone 2. Waiting, Waiting, Waiting…… 3. Make it Snappy 4. Yari 5. Bridge Made of Waters 6. The Happy

Personnel: Michael Pierre Vlatkovich (trombone); Vinny Golia (sopranino, soprano and tenor saxophones, A clarinet, ocarina, piccolo, C and alto flutes); Nels Cline (guitar); Scott Walton (bass); Alex Cline (drums)