A Fireside Chat With Vinny Golia
“ It really is an exciting period in the music, especially for this city [Los Angeles]. There is quite a bit happening, especially spurred on by the younger players at the moment. ”
An old friend once took me to see Vinny Golia at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Since then, I have made it a mission to listen to every recorded note from Golia (not the easiest of tasks) and his 9Winds label. The 9Winds catalog includes recordings with the late Richard Grossman, the late John Carter, sessions with the criminally unrecorded Roberto Miranda and Bobby Bradford, Bertram Turetzky, George Lewis, Tony Malaby, Rich Halley, Michael Vlatkovich, Wadada Leo Smith, Steve Adams of ROVA, Nels and Alex Cline, Rob Blakeslee, John Rapson, Tim Berne, the late Glenn Spearman, Paul Smoker, Baikida Carroll (my fingers are starting to cramp), as well as Golia and his Large Ensemble. To know anything about improvised music in Los Angeles is to know Golia. To know anything about improvised music is to know 9Winds. In fact, I would go so far and be so bold as to say that a record store doesn't know its a-hole from its ear-hole if they don't carry something from the 9Winds catalog or have a bin card that reads "Vinny Golia." This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary for Golia's 9Winds label. But it would be nothing better than an even money bet that not one periodical will note that, yet another reason for me to bow my head in shame. Ladies and gentlemen, Vinny Golia, unedited and in his own words.
All About Jazz: Congratulations are in order.
Vinny Golia: I guess we get a little credit this year. The first thing we recorded was October 11, 1977. Now, after a long time, there is a couple of new people that want to gain more control of what they are doing like Jeff Gauthier. I think they feel as though sometimes their music is not as well received because the people who associate them with this label kind of expect them to be playing music that is similar to this music. All in all, it has been a pretty good documentation of my growth and a few other people on the label. It has been pretty essential for us to document a lot of the musicians that exist here. Otherwise, they would have nothing.
FJ: The knock on Los Angeles has been good weather, bad jazz. Angelinos have a close association with the bandwagon. If it ain't popular or perceived cool, it ain't Hollywood.
VG: If it is billed as an event, you get a lot of people to come out to things. It is kind of funny that way, but it has always kind of been that way. We've had times when the music was pretty much right up in front. One year, John Carter, Horace (Tapscott), and Bobby Bradford all played at the Hollywood Bowl for the Playboy Jazz Festival. The Art Ensemble was here. It was a pretty good period of time. But that music and the people that appreciated it was supported more on the West Coast by some of the press people. It was considered a vital music. Through the years, it seems to have lost any support from the press except for a few people, yourself, Kirk Silsbee (Los Angeles New Times), and Greg Burk (LA Weekly). Most of the other people just don't support it in the press. It is a funny question. The music is going to be the music no matter what and it doesn't really need to be solidified by others. The problem is since Los Angeles is such a gigantic space, you need the press to inform people that these things are happening in different areas of the city. It is very essential for that because you can have as much grassroots connection as possible, but until you really let people know that these concerts are happening and these people are still active, then there is a certain laissez faire thing that happens.
FJ: The "if a tree falls in the woods" theory.
VG: Yeah, these people are around and they are playing, but unless you get the support of that, and also think it is important to expand the base of the listeners that come to hear us because they need to know that these things are happening and that there are places where people can come to see this music. I think it is very important. People in New York would never go, for years, to see the loft and SoHo people until they started writing about them. They create an imagery and then people go to check out what it is that everybody's talking about. We like to play for audiences that are more than thirty occasionally and sometimes by word of mouth, we get a hundred people who will come and see us play. But by not having the mass of people that will support the music, we lose out on certain venues and also, it makes it appear to the press that this is something that only a few people do, which is not the case.
FJ: Which venues have welcomed avant music in Los Angeles?