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Composer and woodwind virtuoso Vinny Golia brought 2 groups into the Museum Of Making Music last night for an inspiring demonstration of the infinite possibilities of saxophone music. Golia played soprano, soprillo, baritone, bass and contrabass saxophones with startling facility--and his interaction with both ensembles was never less than thrilling.

The first half of the concert featured a saxophone quartet with Gavin Templeton on alto, Jon Armstrong on tenor, and the remarkable Brian Walsh on baritone. The group led off with all horns focusing on long tones in ethereal harmonies before the dreamy texture became splintered with multiphonic chaos.

Golia's sense of texture and color was orchestral and riveting--and when individual members began to break away--like Templeton with a lithe and squealing expression--the other horns adjusted perfectly to highlight the soloist.

On "Today," a quirky Braxton-esque unison rocked the house--illustrating Golia's wicked sense of humor, and exhibiting wonderful arranging ideas--each horn tossed ideas, and themes emerged, receded and shifted beneath additionally layered materials.

Seesaw discordant harmonies dominated the final piece which found Walsh wailing in a brief spot before Golia took flight with circular breathing on a special soprano, as the other horns stuttered, cooed and brayed behind him.

The second set featured Golia's special "electric-sextet" a group both perfect for our time and twenty years ahead as well. Armstrong switched to electric bass, Templeton stayed on alto, Daniel Rosenboom joined on trumpet, Alex Noice on guitar and Andrew Lessman manned the drumkit.

Opening with "A Light In The Kecksburg Forest," long melodic unisons from Templeton and Rosenboom ricocheted while Golia wove deep counterpoint on baritone sax below. Noice and Armstrong locked into a leviathan ostinato then split into individual, independent discourse. Armstrong was a terrific force--always moving the music forward with a song of his own--and Noice is a delightfully original and modern guitarist-- his extended solo screamed, sang and spun waves of melody.

Golia clipped on a super-heavy-duty shoulder harness that led me to believe he was about to hoist his custom made Tubax, a refinement of the monstrous contrabass saxophone--which he did, promptly engaging on an audacious riff that drew the band into a wild, free dialog that shifted into a tight, lockstep unison on a dime. Rosenboom emerged with crystal clear trumpet ideas--beautifully combining long melodic runs with trills and smears and topping off with a strangling vibrato, Noice contributed multiple delays, layering loops and changing the speed to create chirping, fluttering dreamscapes.

What Golia has done with this ensemble is nothing short of amazing. Most of these cats are former students of his from Cal Arts, and despite a considerable disparity in age--they function as perfect associates--interpreting the leader's wide-ranging and singular compositions as equals.

Golia's material is incredibly rich and diverse and reminds me a lot of Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus--if they had been born in the '50s and came up through the AACM.

"Myrmidons," leapt off the page with a killer jazz groove--eliciting some exciting exchanges from powerhouse drummer Lessman while Armstrong went off into tangential storytelling setting up one of the most amazing displays of instrumental facility from Golia's soprano over mesmerizing guitar electronics from Noice.

Kudos to the folks at the Museum of Making Music for the foresight and wisdom to bring Golia to Carlsbad for one of the best concerts I've seen in years.

Photo by Jeff Kaiser

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