Rich Halley 5: The Outlier

Mark Corroto By

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After a string of impressive quartet recordings, saxophonist Rich Halley adds multi-instrumentalist Vinny Golia to the lineup for The Outlier. The band is the Rich Halley 5, not the Rich Halley 4 + 1. There is an important distinction here. This session gives the impression of a functioning quintet, not just a guest appearance.

Halley's recordings of late have focused on his quartet with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed, and drummer Carson Halley. They released six stellar sessions, all on the Pine Eagle label, Creating Structure (2015), Eleven (2015), The wisdom Of Rocks (2014), Crossing The Passes (2013), Back From Beyond (2012), and Requim For A Pit Viper (2011).

Adding Golia is a logical move. He engineered Halley's 1990s recordings for his Nine Winds label and performed with the saxophonist in the Lizard Brothers, an improvising small big band in the 1980s and 90s. Like Scott Robinson, it is probably impossible to count the number of instrument he is plays proficiently. Surprisingly, he sticks here to just the baritone saxophone and bass clarinet.

The interweave is the thing here. Tenor plus trombone, plus baritone equals a bit of funky butt on the opener "Recipe for Improvisers" once Reed and Carson Halley lay down the pulse. Halley's tenor solo is followed by a conversation between Golia and Reed which might have been taken from Abbot and Costello's "who's on first" routine. They pair perfectly, as does this entire collective. Halley writes music that allows improvisation to genuinely flow without notice. The three horn opening on "Green Needles" opens into a tenor solo that comes at you like early Sonny Rollins. This is followed by Vlatkovich and Golia mixing themes. The music is orchestrated for freedom. Like Charles Mingus' music was. His influence can be heard on "Du Fu's Stew" which opens with a bass solo, then the urgency of "Better Get Hit In Your Soul" takes the band into the sprint for the finish line. Golia has the difficult task here of running with an instrument as cumbersome as a bass clarinet, though the saxophone/trombone voicing clears a path. Halley has a knack for writing compositions with large shoulders, like "Rising From the Plains," which make the quintet seem like a much larger ensemble. Of the instantly composed pieces (there are three), "Around The Fringes" clicks into this band's modality. Maybe because the piece could easily be mistaken for a composed piece, or maybe this quintet has a special inner-ESP.

Track Listing: Recipe for Improvisers; Urban Crunch; Around the Fringes; Green Needles; Du Fu’s Stew; Long Blue Road; Rising From the Plains; The Way Through; Reciprocity; The Nuthatches.

Personnel: Rich Halley: tenor saxophone; Vinny Golia: baritine saxophone, bass clarinet; Michael Vlatkovich: trombone; Clyde Reed: bass; Carson Halley: drums.

Title: The Outlier | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Pine Eagle Records

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