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A Fireside Chat With Vinny Golia

By Published: April 3, 2003

VG: Yeah, the main reason was some years ago, I started playing with Harry Scorzo (violin) and Harry is like one of the guys that we were talking about. Somehow, anytime notoriety, outside of musicians themselves, it seems to have escaped him, which is phenomenal because he is one of the most amazing musicians that I've encountered here in Los Angeles and especially for his instrument. The violin is not as friendly for certain musics. What we play is pretty much saxophone and trumpet dominated music. I started playing with Harry and just thinking that his improvising was fantastic in the groups that he played in. He would take a solo in the Large Ensemble and that would be great, but I wanted to see what we could do over a span of time and so I started this string quartet and through the years, some of the people moved away and one of the other string players couldn't do it after a while. We had done a few concerts through the years and I kept saying that if we got to a certain point, I would like to document it because it is a nice group and it is something different for me. I really like strings and I have always enjoyed playing with bass players. I have been very fortunate playing with a large variety of bass players, who are fantastic. The stars kind of aligned and the only problem was the woman who was going to play cello couldn't record and finally Rob Blakeslee suggested that I get Jonas Tauber and that worked out really well. We met up in Portland. Ken (Filiano) and I were doing concerts up there and he came in and we talked to him and he seemed very open to all kinds of stuff. Like us, he is a New York transplant, only he decided to live in Portland. Everything fell into place and it was really a joy. We did it in a day and mixed it and there it was.

FJ: Termed "third stream," is your approach different when you play with classically trained musicians?

VG: They improvise differently from jazz musicians. They work more from various, it is not a knock, but they don't work from a harmonic or melodic place. Some of the improv with classical musicians deal more with texture and timbre. It is a different way of approaching improvisation. It is just a totally different way. You do learn to play a little differently when you play with them. But Harry and Ken are much more schooled in the jazz tradition than I am. So it is a nice blend of personalities and where they come from.

FJ: And then there is the retrospectively absorbing John Rapson recording, Water and Blood: The Billy Higgins Improvisations.

VG: Oh, Fred, that is one of Billy's last things. I am really happy that he got to hear it before he passed on. That is a labor of love for John. That was a lot of work. When he first tells you these things, you go, "What?" And then when you hear it, it is just amazing to see the amount of work that he put into it. It is really beautiful playing and composition.

FJ: Encompassing two separate sessions, one in Los Angeles and one in Iowa.

VG: Well, my understanding is Roberto (Miranda) and Billy, John recorded them playing duets and Rapson came in and then listened to the improvisations and had players from two separate camps improvise on top of certain things and he knew the type of improvisations. He kind of shaped the improvisations to what he wanted and from our improvisations, he wrote the body material from those things and then he orchestrated those things and put together these entire compositions based on the improvisations of Billy and Roberto. It was an amazing idea. It is working back into time instead of following a linear course. It was just amazing. It is quite unique. I know of no one else who works in this manner. It really keeps improvisation at the heart of things. Having players like Roberto and Billy just makes things have so much vitality that when you go in to play your parts, it is a very special thing.

FJ: And Damon Short's Go Figure featuring one of the most advanced trumpeters playing, Paul Smoker.

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