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The Vinny Golia Octet: Music for Baritone Saxophone

Robert Bush By

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Vinny Golia Octet

Music For Baritone Saxophone

Nine Winds Records

2011

Woodwind multi-instrumentalist Vinny Golia has been both the beacon and a touchstone for the West Coast free improvising community, particularly in Los Angeles, for over 30 years. Golia started his Nine Winds label in 1977, as a vehicle for distributing his own music, then expanded its mission statement around 1980 to document music from Canada to Mexico that wasn't being heard. Some 200 releases later, Nine Winds is still on the cutting edge, still exposing adventurous musicians to discerning listeners.

Golia has been making terrific records for eons, but even amongst his excellent catalog, Music For Baritone Saxophone is a highlight achievement.

For starters, the octet assembled is loaded with virtuoso players interpreting very creative music with exquisite arrangements. Somehow Golia has managed to produce one of his most accessible records in years without compromising a bit on his originality.

Due to a snafu in the CD printing, e-flat and bass clarinetist Brian Walsh was left off the octet personnel in the liner notes; unfortunate, because he's one of the reasons this disc works so well. The brass section of Daniel Rosenboom on trumpet and George McMullen on trombone are key—especially Rosenboom, who gets the lion-share of solo space. An intriguing component is Alex Noyce on electric guitar. He favors a John McLaughlin type overdriven tone on much of this album, circa Inner Mounting Flame (Columbia, 1970). He knows how to ramp up the tension, and, amazingly, his rock-ish timbre fits perfectly with the horns. Gavin Templeton on alto saxophone gets a good deal of improv time—he's got an updated sense of Eric Dolphy in his performances. The veteran Ken Filiano is never less than compelling on doublebass, and Matt Mayhall on drums is fiery and disruptive in the best possible sense—he keeps this music surging forward.

Golia himself redefines the notion of what is possible on the baritone saxophone, and, on several cuts, takes that one step further on his custom-made Tubax, a refinement of the contrabass saxophone. His solos on either one have all the fluidity and acceleration of much smaller horns—there's never an urge to describe either as "lumbering," because in his hands they are not. On "And These People Drive Too!" Golia's Tubax hits the ground running with long, quicksilver lines that dart from low to high with astonishing precision The full band enters at about the 4:00 mark, after a crisp drum solo. Rosenboom's, tart, clarion-call trumpet emerges, expands, then yields to a distorted, caterwauling guitar solo. Throughout, the horn ensemble wraps Anthony Braxton-esque counterpoint around the soloists.

Ever imagine what saxophonists John Coltrane or Dolphy might have sounded like on the baritone? "Answer" and "Coined The Word Boheeka," with it's loping bass vamp and rollicking drums, set the stage for a manic Golia demonstration. Like many of the tunes on this disc, there is an episodic feel at work, with "Answer" settling into a rock beat toward its conclusion, after exploring several moods and themes.

Golia is very generous with the solo space, yielding to the individual genius of his sidemen often. On "An Anticipation Of Only Catastrophe," Templeton's alto leads off with a swirling, squealing statement followed by an amazing bass clarinet cadenza from Walsh, racing though the registers with equal gravitas. Noyce cycles around waves of skronk before settling in with wicked distortion over Mayhall's asymmetrical rolls and snare drum explosions.

Trombonist McMullen gets a nice spot on "Return Of The Post Marathon Man," soloing simultaneously with Noyce's overdriven guitar. Golia's baritone sax soars above dark clouds of drawn horn textures and the constantly surging drums, before unveiling "Prologue," a short piece featuring Rosenboom alone.

Balance is a key to the success of this impressive effort. The writing and arranging for the group is breathtaking in its scope, as a result the octet often sounds much larger, as on the finale, "Swing Plane," which has the horns swinging hard in a peek-a-boo dynamic, opening up for a show-stopping arco solo from Filiano, (think Paul Chambers meets Barry Guy), and razor sharp features for Rosenboom, Walsh and Noyce.

Anyone who appreciates tight, creative ensemble work and virtuosic soloing should give Music For Baritone Saxophone a listen. Golia is something of a baseball enthusiast, hence the album subtitle: Low and Inside; (close call anyway...).To carry the baseball metaphor one step further, on this masterpiece, Golia swings for the fences...and clears them.

Tracks: The Return Of The Post-Marathon Man; Prologue; Mr & Mrs Sam Wells Check Into The Hotel In Bombay; You Don't Like Beethoven; And These People Drive Too ! (Subterranean); Velature; Answer; Coined The Word Boheeka; Attack Of The People Named Frank Johnson; An Anticipation Of Only Catastrophe; Swing Plane.

Personnel: Vinny Golia: baritone saxophone, Tubax; Brian Walsh: e-flat clarinet, bass clarinet; Gavin Templeton: alto saxophone; Dan Rosenboom: trumpet; George McMullen: trombone, bass trombone; Alex Noyce: electric guitar, effects; Ken Filiano: acoustic bass, effects; Matt Mayhall: drums.

Track Listing: The Return Of The Post-Marathon Man; Prologue; Mr & Mrs Sam Wells Check Into The Hotel In Bombay; You Don't Like Beethoven; And These People Drive Too ! (Subterranean); Velature; Answer; Coined The Word Boheeka; Attack Of The People Named Frank Johnson; An Anticipation Of Only Catastrophe; Swing Plane.

Personnel: Vinny Golia: baritone saxophone, tubax; Brian Walsh: e-flat, bass clarinet; Gavin Templeton: alto saxophone; Dan Rosenboom: trumpet; George McMullen: trombone, bass trombone; Alex Noyce: electric guitar, effects; Ken Filiano: acoustic bass, effects; Matt Mayhall: drums.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Nine Winds Records | Style: Modern Jazz


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