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Vinny Golia/Wadada Leo Smith/Betram Turetsky: Prataksis

Vinny Golia is what you call a multi instrumentalist. On these recordings he plays, by my count, six clarinets, five saxes, five flutes, bassoon, English horn, stritch, and something called the shinobue. It’s easy to see why Golia has been getting raves in the free music world-on these five very different recordings he is always comfortable and always creative, whether the situation calls for humor, tenderness, aggressive fireworks or oblique hints.

Lineage is a quartet date featuring Bobby Bradford, Ken Filiano, and Alex Cline. Sticking to sax and clarinet, Golia weaves counterlines around Bradford’s trumpet in a way that invites comparison to the Carter-Bradford tandem. Ditto the writing-I had to check to see it wasn’t Bradford’s work. But there is never any mistaking the originality of Golia’s muscular playing. Lineage is a hot, Sixties-style, free jazz session that is thoroughly enjoyable. Bradford remains one of the great voices of his generation, and Cline, whom I haven’t heard in some time, is even better than he used to be. Filiano knows the bass’s role but fills it in unexpected ways.

Equally rewarding if quite different is Prataksis, the trio with Leo Smith and Bertram Turetsky. I saw this group last year and thought they were great, but I’m even more impressed by the music here. Turetsky is well known as a contemporary classical bassist whose arco work puts him into a different category than most jazz players. His solo, “Of Love and Loss”, is extremely powerful. Presumably Wadada Leo Smith needs no introduction at this point. I don’t know of another musician so consistently surprising. For free-form fans, this is a great date that unfolds with many an adventure but, seemingly, no effort.

The duo with Steve Adams gives us the rare chance to hear him outside of the ROVA context. Actually, this music is not a million miles removed from that sterling sax quartet’s work, though of course flutes aren’t usually featured with ROVA and here they’re a dime a dozen. Actually Steve “only” plays five saxes and three flutes, and is just as convincing as Golia in moving from ax to ax. The material ranges from meditative to explosive, from free improvising to elaborate heads, and the two players are always on the same wavelength throughout this outstanding record.

The duo with harpist Susan Allen is, obviously, a more difficult undertaking. Allen has worked primarily in classical new music, but has been heard with Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, and other jazz-based players. She doesn’t shy away from the impressionistic effects associated with the harp but doesn’t belabor them either, mixing in bittersweet chords, buzzing twangs, and percussive thwaps, and listening well. Picking up where Betty Glamann left off, Allen champions her instrument impressively.

The excellent Ed Harkins date unites Golia and Turetsky with another contemporary classical figure. Harkins plays no fewer than five kinds of trumpet here, though most of his work is so abstract that I doubt if anyone will know when he’s switching off. Two thirds of the group is the same as the Prataksis trio, but the feeling is quite different, lighter and more about quick little swirls of sound. Some of the music took me places I didn’t know about before, which is, I believe, the idea.

Originally Published