Vinny Golia / Ken Filiano / Harry Scorzo

March 10, 2003

Feeding Frenzy

9 Winds NWCD0229

Vinny Golia seems to have as many musical personas as the instruments that he plays. Considering that the Los Angles-based composer/bandleader/musician is proficient on about 23 members of the woodwind family, you never know which of Golia’s talents will be exposed on a given disc. He’s created large ensemble works, improvised in small jazzy combos, played solo, in duets and trios and traded licks with a PowerBook manipulator.

FEEDING FRENZY, which arrives with the rather prosaic and precise subtitle –music for woodwinds & string quartet –, is another coup. Using six members of the clarinet family and four flutes, Golia pits his horns against an unconventional grouping of two violins, cello and bass. The result is almost 78 minutes of interrupted improv textures that use the atonal capabilities of strings and woodwinds without sacrificing a portion of the romantic vulnerability associated with these instruments.

Not usually constituted as a string quartet, Golia’s helpmates are at home with astringent music making and shifting tonal centres as more legit harmony. Bassist Ken Filiano, for instance, has seconded the reedist on a series of large and small group projects and now works with East Coast improvisers such as drummer Lou Grassi and trombonist Steve Swell. Violinist Harry Scorzo’s diamond hard tone and fleet pizzicato was an important part of the success of THE OTHER BRIDGE (OAKLAND 1999) by Golia’s large ensemble. A member of Latin and salsa bands plus a duo with Tony Jones on electronics, this CD gives Scorzo more scope for his legit side. Swedish violinist Ludwig Girdland, a recent Berklee College grad, acquits himself well on second violin, and the cello chair is held by Jonas Tauber of Portland, Ore., who has also worked with improv/New music percussionist John Hollenbeck.

Overall, each of the 10 tracks features polyrhythmic explorations of Golia’s themes, with their jokey titles sometimes hinting at the contents. Blended strings are often used as counterpoint to the reedman’s extended techniques on one or (usually) more horns. Eschewing saxophones gives many of the pieces a sound midway between New music and what many people hear as EuroImprov, with many of the tracks broken into multi-thematic sections.

On flute, Golia’s performance can range from the most obvious legato phrasing to concentrated, claxon-like overblowing or guttural Rahsaan Roland Kirk-style vocalized breaths. Exposing his clarinet army, it’s the chalumeau register that’s most prominent here, even when he’s playing the contra alto bass clarinet or contra bass clarinet. To match that, Filiano’s particular methods are most evident when he constructs an andante bass continuo, or produces an augmented ferment, banging his bow on the front of the strings or creating vibrato with several sticks placed horizontally between the strings.

Scorzo is probably responsible for a few string-popping violin solos as well as double-timing staccato phrases. More frequently, he and Girdland unite for high-pitched, rubato lines, cushioning or commenting on the horn work. Or they will meld tones as one, polyrhythmically contrasting with their lower string cousins.

No syrupy BIRD WITH STRINGS, Vinny Golia & Strings — as the CD label reads — is a reminder that abrasive reed techniques and congenial string work can mix without fissure. It’s another reminder of the wealth of talent affiliated with Golia and his many projects.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Title Sequence 2. She’s Joan Raymond 3. Things The Dobsons Could Have Taught Us 4. Biograph 5. Did I Forget to Mention That? 6. Death of the Tremolo 7. Bare-handed Cricket Catch 8. Oil For the Burning Fires 9. Subtrafuge 10. When Elephants Then Come Waltzing Through Your Living Room

Personnel: Vinny Golia (piccolo, G flute, C flute, alto flute and bass flute, Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet, A clarinet, bass clarinet, contra alto bass clarinet, contra bass clarinet); Ludwig Girdland, Harry Scorzo (violins); Jonas Tauber (cello); Ken Filiano (bass)