Vinny Golia, once strictly a free player, is now attracted to a more traditional, mainstream jazz approach, so his musical stance lies somewhere between the two modes.
"I like playing with both freedom and structure," said the 41-year-old woodwind musician recently in his Westside apartment. "In the last few years I have been trying to combine a use of contemporary classical techniques in a chamber setting within the jazz tradition," he said, laughing at what seems an incongruous combination.
Golia, formerly an artist and teacher, has been a professional reedman for almost 15 years. These days, he appears in three main contexts: a trio, with pianist Wayne Peet and bassist Ken Filiano; a quintet with Peet, trumpeter John Fumo, drummer Alex Cline and bassist Roberto Miranda, and a 19-piece Large Ensemble, which will appear tonight at At My Place in Santa Monica.
Each group allows different aspects of the Golia musical personality to emerge. "The Large Ensemble is like a chamber orchestra that plays swing, though it doesn't cook like a regular big band," Golia said, with an accent that betrays his Bronx upbringing. "And though the people solo really hard, it always has a lid on it, so it's not totally crazy.
"In the trio I have a lot of chances to try things, such as interesting instrumental combinations and new colors and textures in composition. It's like a workshop for bigger ensembles. The quintet is the most traditional thing I do. There there's more room for lyricism, and melody--whether angular or non-angular--seems to be more important."
Because he got a late start in music, Golia has to work hard. His recent LPs reveal the improvement in his playing, and he feels it too.
"A lot of players in the free orientation don't swing and I'm starting to swing more," he said. "I also feel I'm getting more lyrical, and my tone is better on all my instruments (Golia plays 15 standard woodwinds, plus various ethnic instruments). That comes from sitting here three, four hours a day, practicing and driving my neighbors crazy," he said with a robust laugh.
Golia, who has contributed most of the music to his 10 LPs on the Nine Winds label, which he owns and operates, is basically a self-taught composer. "I stumble along," he said. "Some things work, some things are disastrous,"
While in his 20s Golia, a graduate of New York Institute of Technology and Pratt Institute, found jazz music fascinating. He spent a lot of time around musicians, and not just listening. "I started to draw musicians playing, and I could draw as fast as they could solo," he said.
When he first started to play, Golia "made squeaks and bonks on cello, electric guitar, flute, piano--just a lot of weird sounds," he said. "Then I wanted to learn, so I bought a soprano saxophone in 1970. People, like John Carter, Tom Canning and Bruce Cale, liked my attitude and helped me a lot."
Golia, who settled here in 1973, now makes a living with his music and often travels overseas. He admits his offerings are not necessarily for everyone. "It's not traditionally standard music," he said. "Not everybody likes it, and it's much safer to hear (Cole Porter's) 'Night and Day.' But I think if you come to my music with an open ear, you definitely come away with something."