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VINNY GOLIA QUARTET
At the Vancouver Jazz Festival in June I heard a rare performance by LA-based reedist Vinny Golia’s Large Ensemble–music full of hairpin turns, spectacular shifts of sonic scenery, and an astonishing range of tempos and textures. In 18 years the Large Ensemble has released a half dozen albums, and it seems like the group’s only played about that many concerts; it can’t be a picnic for Golia to marshal a jazz orchestra that sometimes tops 24 members, especially considering the demands of his idiosyncratic original music. (How often do you see a big band with a bassoon, let alone a bassoon section?) Golia himself plays more instruments than the Large Ensemble has played shows, even counting the sessions for its studio albums; he’s recorded on at least 20 different horns, from piccolo down to bass saxophone. A potent tenor saxist, he also plays with great body and warmth on soprano and with blistering harmonics on baritone, and he deserves extra attention for his work with a wagonload of clarinets–including the relatively common bass clarinet and the contralto, which I’ve never heard anyone else use. Golia writes excellent and inventive compositions for small groups too, which makes his quartet show this weekend extra enticing; the band features his regular bassist Ken Filiano, occasional sparring partner Paul Smoker on trumpet, and Chicago drummer Damon Short. When Smoker played here in July, a nervous, vital energy jumped out of his horn like balls of lightning, but it’s his cogent, long-lined solos that suit Golia’s compositions so well. Golia has become a father figure in LA jazz, and runs a free-music label, Nine Winds Records, out of Beverly Hills; all the same, he has idols of his own–including two from Chicago, septuagenarian saxists Von Freeman and Fred Anderson. That makes this gig a treat for Golia: Anderson’s humble but increasingly high-profile nightclub hosts the show, and Anderson himself is on the bill with one of his regular groups, featuring Hamid Drake on drums and Tatsu Aoki on bass. Saturday, 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 21281/2 S. Indiana; 312-791-9050. Neil Tesser
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Neil France.