Fractured Chamber Music

Vinny GoliaMusic for Woodwinds, Strings, Piano, and Percussion (pfMentum, 2017)

golia-woodwinds“Don’t make a mess in my brand new Edgar suit!” is one of the more normal titles in this collection of modern chamber music. One of the less normal titles is “Mr. Pisaro, are all your papers in order? (and his lovely wife too…).”

The psychologically scattered phrases seem like warnings not to take this music too seriously — but it feels like serious music, albeit with a prankster’s touch. Strings set the mood, while composer/bandleader Vinny Golia’s woodwinds furnish the attitude in the form of soloing — sometimes in frenzied free-jazz mode, sometimes with placid flute that could pass for “straight” modern chamber music. Some tracks add piano for elegant depth (“Fish is Fish but that’s another matter”) or artfully jazzy splashes (“Something about a Carnival?”), and Golia occasionally does double duty by adding percussion or sound effects.

My guess is that Golia wrote many, if not all, of these tracks as exercises in improvising over a complicated, through-composed background (although I think the strings get some improv moments as well). On “Edgar suit,” that background is a tense pulsing, egged on by some dissonant piano chords. Here’s a passage where the pulse starts freeing up, and Golia flourishes nicely when the strings glide into a set of unison chords.

 
In another direction, “‘they look like monkeys, yes!’ (the zeegoes…)” feels steeped in chamber music, with its dense strings and a flute lead that’s mostly choppy and abrasive in this clip, although elsewhere it gets mellifluous and oh-so-chamber-sounding.

 
The album is part of a chamber-music series Golia is releasing on pfMentum. Syncquistic Linear Expositions and their Geopolitical Outcomes (…we are all still here…) is a standard-looking jazz quartet playing songs with another set of wordy, phase-shifting titles, while Intercommunications matches Golia’s woodwind arsenal with percussion. (pfMentum, 2018).

Outsound New Music Summit 2016

2016_SummitCollage-cutStarting tomorrow in San Francisco, the week-long Outsound New Music Summit will convene for the 15th time. It’s a week-long series of shows celebrating creative music of many stripes, from jazz and new-classical to noise and prop.

I’ve written about the event quite a bit over the years, and you can also learn more by digging through the Outsound archive.

The event runs July 24-30, at the Community Music Center (544 Capp Street @ 20th, San Francisco). Check out the full schedule here.

outsound-logoFor a deeper look, you can explore the “In the Field” series of video interviews, posted by Outsound organizer Rent Romus. They’re extensive (usually 20+ minutes) and often explore how these musicians got turned on to creative music and out-there sounds.

Here’s my smattering of highlights — based primarily on how familiar I am with the musicians and concepts. Meaning, I’ve left lots of deserving artists behind; explore the full schedule for more info, with additional video and audio information.

Concert times are 8:15 p.m., except as noted.

Touch the Gear (Sun. July 24, 7:00-10:00 p.m.) — An Outsound tradition. It’s a hands-on exhibit of electronics and noisemakers (and sometimes some more “normal” musical instruments”), giving you an opportunity to find out where some of these unusual noises come from. It’s very informal and, well, noisy: You wander the tables, ask some questions — and push some buttons and make some noise yourself.

Sonny Simmons documentary (Mon. July 25, 7:00 p.m.) — A screening of Brandon Evans’ 2003 film, “Sonny Simmons: The Multiple Rated X Truth.” Simmons is a fascinating story, a forgotton hero of ’60s free-jazz who became re-remembered starting in the early ’00s.

Dan Plonsey: “On His Shoulders Stands No One” (Tues. July 26) — Expect Braxton-like expanse, but with a friendlier, warmer touch than Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music or Echo Echo Mirror House. Find out more in Plonsey’s video interview (embedded here).

Brett Carson’s Mysterious Descent (Tues. July 26) — A theater/poetry/music piece based on the extant texts of the Idnat Ikh-ôhintsôsh (i.e., a language of Carson’s own devising). Might be the most “out-there” concept on the docket. I’m not sure what to expect; I just got drawn in by Carson’s “In the Field” inteview.

Vinny Golia, Lisa Mezzacappa & Vijay Anderson (Wed. July 27) — Three musicians whose work I’ve enjoyed and admired. This should be a rewarding set of sax-bass-drums improvised jazz. Note that they’re also three-fourths of the band on the album Hell-Bent in the Pacific, which included the late Marco Eneidi on sax.

lake-robinsonOliver Lake & Donald Robinson (Thur. July 28) — Outsound goes above and beyond to support local artists, but the festival also usually includes notable names from out of town. Oliver Lake is a luminary known for the World Saxophone Quartet, Trio 3, and his extensive solo career. (See SF Weekly‘s preview.) Donald Robinson is a hero of the local scene, a drummer whose fluid, airy style has always impressed me. He’s also a veteran of the early ’70s free jazz scene in Paris, where his musical cohorts included Oliver Lake. Who knows whether they kept in touch or even knew each other well; in any event, this should be a special dialogue between kindred spirits.

There’s also a trio improv that combines Brandon Evans with local luminaries Christina Stanley (violin) and Mark Pino (drums); an avant-pop night promising shades of prog and electronic music; and an appearance from the long-running, unpredictable Big City Orchestra.

And plenty more. Seriously, explore the schedule. There’s a wide range of music in store.

Josh Allen’s Deconstruction Orchestra

The Outsound group has posted several videos from this year’s New Music Summit, the annual creative-music festival held every summer in San Francisco. (You’ll find the full playlist of videos here.)

Video is a powerful tool for documenting live music, especially creative music. The music is underrepresented in the media as it is. Video evidence of past performances could be a useful promotional tool, especially when traveling out of town. And for this kind of music, it’s not as if the fans will stay home hoping there’ll be video to replay later — that’s hardly a guarantee.

Here’s Josh Allen conducting an improvising orchestra. It’s a grand, hour-long piece full of big sounds and blazing solos. Rent Romus and Vinny Golia, on saxes, really sink their teeth into it early on. Afterwards, there’s a fiery encore where we get to hear Allen’s tenor sax assault. Great stuff.

Humanity Suite: Ross Hammond, Inspired by History and Art

Ross HammondHumanity Suite (Prescott Recordings, 2014)

Ross Hammond: Humanity SuiteWith Humanity Suite, guitarist Ross Hammond has created an extended piece that’s certainly free and aggressive but exudes a sense of serenity. It’s a free-jazz statement based on rhythms that become the foundations for individual solos — an uncluttered, free sound with lots of chances for soloists to soar.

We got tastes of this on Hammond’s quartet albums. The heart of the music is the same: Hammond’s fuzzed-out guitar, spinning bright and bluesy forms in a mostly contented spirit. I think of it as sunny, with an African influence, but Hammond can also pour it on. Early on Side 2, he turns up the electricity, egged on by Dax Compise’s splashy snare-and-cymbal playing for a tough-shredding solo. Eventually, he steps aside for another horn free-for-all that ends with a slowly fading triplet rhythm in 15/8.

Kara Walker's “Life at ‘Ol’ Virginny’s Hole’ (sketches from Plantation Life),” It measures 12 feet high by 85 feet long. Source: walkerart.org; click to go there.
Kara Walker’s “Life at ‘Ol’ Virginny’s Hole’ (sketches from Plantation Life).” It measures 12 feet high by 85 feet long. Source: walkerart.org; click to go there.

The occasion for the Suite was a commissioned concert at Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum in October. It coincicded with an exhibition of works by Kara Walker, an artist who draws from African-American history for her works. She’s best known for silhouetted pieces set in the Civil War era, and she recently made headlines with an installation for the condemned Domino sugar refinery, a set of works crowned by a 40-ton sugar sculpture in the shape of a sphinx.

Inspired, Hammond decided to use the same sense of history, injustice, and truth-telling as the backdrop for the instrumental suite. It’s not tied to particular pieces of Walkers; it’s more about the spirit, especially when it comes to her detailed silhouettes that tell complete stories. That’s the sense he wanted to convey.

For all its bustling freedom, the suite carries a calm demeanor, a contented wisdom. The early mood is patient, set by open-air guitar lines and slow trombone melody, but around that, the horns calmly trace their own paths. Throughout the piece, the horns command most of the attention, not only in the high-energy solos by Catherine Sikora and Vinny Golia on sax, or Clifford Childers on trombone, but for their adept free-improvsed interludes between composed sections. A fairly long, busy improvisation for the horns in the middle of Side 1 is the perfect break to set up a new phase with somber tones against Clifford Hilders’ trombone solo.

Even during Hammond’s high-energy solo early in Part 2, which includes some high-voltage free jazz from the entire group, a sense of reverence pervades. Humanity Suite is meant to be weighty, and it pulls that off without becoming stiff or heavy-handed.

Humanity Suite is a vinyl release, but you can also buy it digitally at Bandcamp.

Hell-Bent for Saxophone Glory

Marco Eneidi plays in the Bay Area Sept. 29 and 30 … see dates at the bottom of this post.

He also played on Sept. 28, but I wasn’t able to get this posted before then. Bummer.

Vinny Golia, Marco Eneidi, Lisa Mezzacappa, Vijay AndersonHell-Bent in the Pacific (NoBusiness, 2012)

Marco Eneidi‘s occasional trips back to the Bay Area are becoming a regular occurrance, so it’s nice that this time, he’s got some product to hawk at his shows, in the form of this terrific CD.

He’ll be playing the Bay Area throughout this coming weekend (the dates are listed further down).

A free-jazz saxophonist in the Jimmy Lyons mold, Eneidi lived here for nine years before relocating to Vienna in 2004, where he’s run weekly jam sessions under the auspices of The Neu New York/Vienna Institute of Improvised Music.  (See also: ‘Couple other posts from 2009 here and here, and a 2010 album review.)

This particular trip reunites him with Lisa Mezzacappa on bass and Vijay Anderson on drums. Together, they form what’s now been dubbed an “official” trio, called Shattered.

They’re on this CD, as is saxophonist Vinny Golia, from Los Angeles. Golia gets listed first on the CD’s spine — but really, this is one of those equal-collaboration arrangements, an improvised jazz session with equally contributed parts.

All four musicians have played together in various combinations. Eneidi used to jam weekly with Anderson. Anderson and Mezzacappa are in the quartet Go-Go Fightmaster and/or Bait and Switch (same personnel, different purposes). Mezzacappa and Golia play duets on Golia’s recent album, The Ethnic Project (which I keep meaning to review here; it’s a nifty concept).

Getting back to Hell-Bent in the Pacific — it’s an album full of life and energy. Eneidi sounds great going for the energy-jazz thing, with his barking, clipped sax grooving through ecstatic bursts. His alto sax also sounds songlike and toneful during slower passages — the CD was very well recorded at Oakland’s New, Improved Records — making for some luscious passages on tracks like “Everything Imaginable Can Be Dreamed” or the dark forest of “Pendulum.”

I don’t mean to make the CD sound like Eneidi’s show; the bass and drum work, such as a terrific duet opening “Catholic Cornstocking Smut-Hound,” make for some of the best moments on the album. And Vinny Golia puts in some vital contributions, which goes without saying. But it’s great to hear long doses of Eneidi — not just the rapid-fire free-jazz moments, but the more easygoing passages too, where you get a good sense of the blues and jazz history layered into his improvising.

Among the tracks that are less obvious — those that you might miss on a first listen — I was really taken by “Prisoner of a Gaudy and Unlivable Present,” which I think consists of just the Shattered trio.  It starts in a calm place, Eneidi in a conversational mode with bass and drums in a low-key banter. As the music starts building, Eneidi ups the flow just slightly, while Anderson moves to a light snare patter, then into tom rolls and more furious cymbals. After about four minutes, Eneidi is rising to a squall on sax — and the trio kicks back down to a quiet place, almost a misty blues. It all ends with a three-minute cooldown, back in that conversational zone.

Marco Eneidi dates:

  • Fri. Sept. 28 @ Berkeley Arts Festival — Shattered (trio of Eneidi, Mezzacappa, Anderson) playing  two sets starting at 8:00 p.m.
  • Sat. Sept 29 @ Omiiroo gallery (400 14th St., Oakland) — Eneidi duet with Marshall Trammell (drums), 6:00 p.m.

Vinny Golia Meets Lords of Outland

Rent Romus’ Lords of Outland with Vinny GoliaEdge of Dark (Edgetone, 2011)

The Lords of Outland, with Golia, play Sat. Dec. 17 at Community Music Center: 544 Capp St. in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Over the past 17 years or so, Lords of Outland has gone from being a free-jazz band to playing  a noisier, darker brew filled with wild electronics. Edge of Dark nudges the pendulum back toward the jazzy side by adding L.A. reeds master Vinny Golia, pitting his sax next to Rent Romus‘.

Maybe that’s one way of interpreting the title being Edge of Dark — but it’s still dark. Romus has read a lot of Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft, and maybe combined with the current political climate, it adds up to some ominous, looming compositions.

There’s plenty of free-jazz energy to be found, though. The two saxophonists get into some nice sparring matches, as on “Over the Rift” (both of them on tenor sax).  Golia shows of a fluid, rapid-fire style, generally more acrobatic than Romus’. Nothing against Romus — who puts forth a gruff attack and, as usual, adds lots of inventive expressiveness to his playing — it’s just that Vinny Golia is, you know, Vinny Golia.

In fact, Golia’s ebullient playing can sometimes dilute the dark mood, as on “Into Dune,” a creeping, freeform bass-and-drums exploration. Golia’s solo is bright and energetic, cutting away the near-psychedelic wandering nature of the track for a few minutes.

But it’s not as if he doesn’t fit the personality of the album. Golia does well at enhancing the slowly intense burn of “Spreading Tar of Cosmic Microinfinity,” adding a wailing soprano sax to the song’s bellowing midpoint. And he puts in a furious solo on “Over the Rift,” another track with a slow and heavy feel.

Some of the album’s highlights come when Golia takes the spotlight completely — just him against just the drums and bass, and maybe a twiddle or two from C.J. Borosque’s electronics. “Body of Memory” is a good example, with Golia going all Evan Parker on us in a twirling, fluttering solo backed only by quiet drums and ominous electric bass (played by longtime Lords members Philip Everett and Ray Schaeffer).

Just to show the dark album doesn’t want for lighter moments: “Ovular Amphivoid” is actually kind of swingy, one of the most directly jazz-derived tracks. It cuts immediately into cutting, choppy free-jazz soloing, with Romus grumpy and puffing and Golia in overblowing mode. “Night Nova” has a springy ’60s free-jazz feel, partly because of Golia’s darting flute. The track quiets down for an electronics solo, after which the band adds some abstract vocalizing to the improvising.

Playlist: Sept. 4, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, Sept. 4, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Full playlist viewable here.

Notes:

source: CD baby….. Great to see Fred Anderson is still at it. Staying in the Game (Engine, 2009) is a lo-fi excursion, but Anderson’s ebullient sax still shines through. A trio disk with Harrison Bankhead (bass) and Tim Daisy (drums).

….. Feeding Frenzy (Nine Winds, 2003) is a Vinny Golia album pairing a string quartet with his flute (or clarinet). Some comparisons to classical music are inevitable, but really it’s a free-jazz romp, often dipping into abstraction.

….. Bruno Montovani goes in the opposite direction, a classical composer whose aggressive, modernistic pieces shade towards the free improv side of the rainbow and touch on jazz concepts, as in the long percussion duet in the fifth movement (the one I played today) of “La Sette Chiese” (from La Sette Chiese/Streets/Eclair de Lune (Kairos, 2009)).

source: cd baby….. The Molecules are a local post-punk trio that plays complex rock and often plays it “wrong.” Complex time signatures, knotty and wormy bass lines, guitar chords not known to man, and occasional shrieking. Friends (RA Sounds, 2007) is the remnant of an abandoned 3-CD set that would have been the group’s tour de force. Its release came about a decade after the Molecules’ glory days — they were big in Japan, from what I understand — and was accompanied by a mini-tour that I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of. I’m always impressed by the number of songs musicians can remember, and doubly so here, because the Molecules spit out one- and two-minute blitzkrieg songs by the fistful.

….. Pop break: Lady Lazarus is a downcast, DIY singer/songwriter type whose CD, Home Recordings (self-released, 2009) comes in an oversized paper packaged with hand-stitching on the edges. A pensive, lonely, lovely sound.

….. This was fun: Unexpectedly got the chance to give away grounds passes to the Monterey Jazz Festival — and for Sunday, Sept. 20, no less: the day when Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran, and Buffalo Collision (w/Tim Berne) will be playing. (Buffalo Collision can also be had in MP3 form.)

Outsound Rolls In

source: outsound.orgOn Friday’s KZSU radio show (July 17), I’ll be hosting Rent Romus at about 5:00 p.m. Pacific, to talk about the Outsound New Music Summit, happening July 22-25 in San Francisco’s Mission District.

The summit is prefaced on Sunday, July 19, with “Touch the Gear,” an exhibition where electronic musicians lay out their instruments and contraptions for you to mess with. Yes, you get to touch the gear, to make noises on your own, to squiggle and tweak. If you’re lucky, Tom Nunn will be there with one of his homemade contraptions. And along the way, you learn where some of those electronic drones and blips really come from.

The rest of the lineup:

* Wednesday, July 22 — “Free Improvisation/Free Composition” — works with some jazzy roots.

    • Alicia Mangan and Spirit
    • ROVA
    • Vinny Golia.

* Thursday, July 23 — “Industrial Soundscapes” — probably noisy and/or droney stuff, with:

    • Peter Kolovos
    • Conure
    • Hans Fjellestad
    • Thomas Dimuzio.

* Friday, July 24 — “InterMedia” — multimedia works.

    • Jess Rowland with The Dreamland Puppet Theater
    • Kathleen Quillian & Gilbert Guererro
    • and the return of Bonfire Madigan, an old KZSU fave.

* Saturday, July 25 — “Introspection and Improvisation” — sets that could be quiet, but I wouldn’t count on it staying that way all evening, particularly the last set.

    • Natto (acoustic trio improv)
    • Ghost In the House featuring Richard Waters
    • Left Coast Improv Group (noted here)

Lots more details at the Outsound site. All events take place at the Community Music Center at 544 Capp Street (between Mission and South Van Ness, between 20th and 21st).

Yep, this overlaps the Mission Creek Festival, but Mission Creek is tapping an audience different from Outsound’s. At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself with fingers crossed. Outsound has done well the past couple of years, so hopefully the turnout will be good this time around, too.