Sometimes adversity can engender the most remarkable responses. Woodwind multi-instrumentalist Vinny Golia and his quintet had landed in Belgium the morning of September 11th, 2001, having taken off from New York a few hours before the terrible tragedy of the World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks, only then to discover what had happened. When the promoters gave the group the option of cancelling the tour and trying to find its way back home, the musicians decided to stay and play because, in Golia's words, "it would show the spirit of what our music and our country is all about. While orders of magnitude less in significance, guitarist Nels Cline also badly injured his ankle boarding a train. Things did not bode well.
But, based on the music documented in the live, two-and-a-half hour One, Three, Two, it's clear that the quintet not only transcended the devastating events that had just taken place; it actually channelled the emotions of the moment into performances that truly demonstrated the power of freedom.
That Golia considers the quintet "...a comfortable platform to explore composition, improvisation and orchestration is testament to the broad range of colours that everyone in the ensemble is capable ofwith Golia himself utilizing an array of flutes, saxophones, clarinet, and ocarina. Michael Pierre Vlatkovich, with a number of different mutes, coaxes a surprising wealth of textures and emotion from his trombone, from the oblique to the playful. Nels Cline combines the sonic coloration of a rock guitarist with a staggering wealth of musical knowledgecoalescing his diverse interests into a style that remains one of the most distinctive on any scene. Alex Cline, while limiting himself to a traditional drum kit this time around, exhibits the same almost limitless perspective, capable of dissolving into a maelstrom of chaos one moment and swinging hard the next. Bassist Scott Walton, the most recent recruit at five years, is equally adept at following Golia's sometimes idiosyncratic thematic constructs as he is locking into a barrelhouse groove like the one on "The Happy.
But it's the kind of empathy that pervades these two sets that make them so special. Golia may have roots in world music and contemporary classical composition, and there is evidence of both concerns here, but this set is unabashedly jazz, with the group as disposed to swinging hard as it is exploring more challenging flights of free improvisation. The quintet seems to move effortlessly from intense interplay to more defined structure. That Golia has worked with the Cline brothers since the '70s is especially evident in the way that they seem so deeply attuned to the slightest cue and the most subtle nuance. And while the Clines may be the longest-standing members of Golia's Quintet, everyone is equally in sync.
Sometimes intense and serious, other times lithe and humorous, One, Three, Two is always imaginative, adventurous, and gripping. From a quintet that truly defines modern improvised jazz at its best, two sets of music that show how the worst possible events can stimulate passionate, meaningful responses.
Disc One: Hexo-Lateral (for Buckminister Fuller); None That Are Giants; While All Are Away; On Behalf of My Benefactors; Prelude to The Orphans Disc Two: Drum in the Circle of Stone; Waiting, Waiting, Waiting; Make It Snappy; Yari; Bridge Made of Waters; The Happy
Vinny Golia (piccolo, C & alto flutes, sopranino, soprano and tenor saxophones, A clarinet and ocarina), Michael Pierre Vlatkovich (trombone), Nels Cline (electric guitar), Scott Walton (double-bass), Alex Cline (drums)
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