Vinny Golia Sextet – Abstractions and Retrocausalities (2011)

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It used to be, “West Coast jazz” meant Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Shelly Manne and Chet Baker. When thinking of West Coast jazz today, my thoughts tend toward Scott Amendola, Alex Cline, Sarah Wilson, Will Bernard, Rich Halley, Jeff Gauthier and Ross Hammond.

And right in the middle of it all is reed multi-instrumentalist Vinny Golia.

Golia is a man who has achieved on so many levels over a forty year career. A partial list of instruments he’s mastered include alto flute, piccolo, soprano, clarinet, bass clarinet, and tenor, soprano, contrabass and baritone saxophone. He’s also known to pick up more exotic wind instrument, such as a sho, bawu, daegum and hichirikki. But that’s just one aspect of him. He’s a distinguished educator, bandleader, sideman and composer. He composes not only for jazz, but also classical, ballet, modern dance works, theater, video, and film. Since 1977, the year he released he first record as a leader, he’s run his own record label, Nine Winds. Nine Winds specializes in creative music by West Coast musicians. Golia has led ensembles of all sizes, from trios to, for the last thirty years, a fifty piece band called the Vinny Golia Large Ensemble (note: Nine Winds has just released a staggering 4 disc — 2 CDs and 2 DVDs — ten year retrospective of the VGLE, title Overview: 1996-2006.) Golia has fostered innumerable careers, too. Nels Cline’s much celebrated recording oeuvre began on a 1978 Golia record.

Over such a rich and varied career, Golia had never recorded with his sextet, until last year. Golia is joined in this band by Dan Rosenboom (piccolo, Bb trumpet, flugelhorn), Gavin Templeton (alto sax), Alex Noyce (electric guitar), Jon Armstrong (electric bass) and Ander Lessman (drums).

Understanding Golia’s background is very instructive in understanding this record, called Abstractions and Retrocausalities, because Golia throws the weight of his experiences and proficiencies from other areas into this six-man band. This isn’t year typical jazz septet, and the electric guitar and bass already points to that. Juxtaposed with the three wind instruments creates an agitation that goes to the heart of Golia’s concept of music: counterpoint, purposeful spontaneity and elaborate meshes are the order of the day for him. And like the avant chamber music he’s composed and led for so long, he is able to find fertile arrangements for the horns and at the same time take full advantage of his amplified and nimble rhythm section to create tension and drama in a way that he can’t do with his Large Ensemble.

The selections tend to played more concisely in the beginning, becoming extended, suite-like orchestral pieces by the fourth track, “BTSO (Big Time Secret Organization),” a blowing session that’s’ closest to traditional bop as you’ll here on this record. “Spare The Rod, Spoil The Series” is cinematic and scope, moving at episodically through sparse, quiet moments, some harmolodic ones and in its own eccentric way, grooves. “Why Would A Whale Act Like This?” places cagey horn charts and urgent soloing by Golia and Rosenboom over a heavy slab of rock in a way calling to mind Henry Threadgill’s Very Very Circus.

Golia made these recordings putting himself on the left channel, Rosenboom on the right and Templeton somewhere in the middle. The sharply defined separation of the front line allows listeners to delineate what each of horn players are doing. Noice plays a Nels Cine type role in the band, alternating between bright, ambient colorations to abrasive, power chording, often challenging Golia. Armstrong often plays in a higher than normal register for a bass, which meshes well because Golia is usually on a low end with either his contrabass or baritone sax.

Rocking a little harder than the Vinny Golia Large Ensemble with forty-four less musicians, The Vinny Golia Sextet retains the full musical vision of Vinny Golia. Abstractions and Retrocausalities captures a band that needed to be captured on record.

Abstractions and Retrocausalities was released 2011 by Nine Winds Records. Visit Vinny Golia’s website for more info.

Purchase: Vinny Golia Sextet – Abstractions and Retrocausalities

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