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Vinny Golia: Music for Like Instruments – The Eb Saxophones

California multi-reed man Vinny Golia has long been something like a West Coast version of Anthony Braxton-prolific, restlessly creative, always presenting his music in new and challenging ways. Music for Like Instruments: The E-Flat Saxophones (Nine Winds), is a Braxton-like project: 14 compositions written for an ensemble consisting of three alto players (Beth Schenk, Jason Mears and Nathan Herrera) and Golia on stritch, contrabass, sopranino, baritone and alto.

Golia’s weirdly splendid contrabass (or “Tubax”) playing is itself worth the price of admission. On the aptly mis-titled “Scharwznegger,” for instance, the big horn is the star of its own near-cinematic feature, only instead of the Governator, it’s Fatty Arbuckle that comes to my mind; the almost poignant disconnect between Golia’s nimble technique and the horn’s natural lugubriousness is remindful of the early film comedian’s best work. Compositionally, Golia would seem to owe a debt to such minimally inclined classical composers as Morton Feldman or LaMonte Young, yet there’s plenty of rhythmic spark to remove it from such static company. If there’s a flaw, it might be that Golia dominates the ensemble too completely. It would be interesting to hear this music played by Golia in the company of his peers (members of ROVA, perhaps?). Nevertheless, it’s a fine work on its own merits.

Originally Published