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Vinny Golia: Music for Like Instruments; The Clarinets

Here’s hoping that, one of these days, some hip musicologist delves deep into the work of Vinny Golia. L.A.’s version of Anthony Braxton deserves the consideration, given the length, breadth and depth of his career in leftward-leaning jazz–a career that, like Braxton’s, is still going strong. This is the third volume of Golia’s Music for Like Instruments series. Like the last one I reviewed–devoted to E-flat saxophones–this one for clarinet quintet is full of imaginative composition and arranging, enlivened by a generous dollop of improvisation.

Golia writes and plays like a genius autodidact: disinterested in convention, concerned only with what works. His compositions stay away from functional harmony, embracing instead strategies of tonal organization that seldom imply a tonal center. He’s a rhythmic composer, often relying more on the repetition of riffs and motifs than on extended melody. The music is not too loose, not too tight. The improvisers are fine; Golia’s is the dominant voice. For the listener, there’s the limited timbral palette to deal with. It is, nevertheless, a well-crafted, inspired work–typical Vinny Golia.

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