|One Final Note Review: Before moving to Los Angeles to become the godfather of that city's improv scene, multi-reedist Vinny Golia was a painter in New York. I'm betting he was an Abstract Expressionist, but on Music for Like Instruments, he's Peter Breughel, creating music that is at once sweeping and precisely observed, hilarious and dire, vulgar and sublime.
And he's done all this within the self-imposed instrumental constraint of a quartet of playing nothing but Eb saxophones. In fact, three of the four players, Nathan Herrera, Jason Mears and Beth Schenk, play only alto saxophone, further limiting the coloristic range available.
Or so you would think.
But what a range of sounds he gets, from the Charles-Ives-via-Anthony-Braxton march music of "We believe the use of Homo Sapiens is time sensitive" to the Messiaen-ic birdcalls of "Bopus, for Franco Boragoni".
Much of the credit—and solo space—goes to the leader, who plays top (sopranino) to bottom (contrabass saxophone, or tubax) with equal authority and feeling. The latter is an ungainly piece of plumbing and it's remarkable that Golia can get any music out of it at all, let alone the hilarious tone-painting of "Schwarznegger" (sic). Golia gives the ungainly monster a bratty theme, then sends it crashing through a chattering thicket of altos, the Terminator himself shouting, "Schtopp vining!" to a restive California electorate. It seems that Golia predicted the arc of the recall election back in December 2002, when this was recorded. It's political satire as gross and engrossing as a Daumier engraving.
If none of the other 13 compositions rise to quite that devastating level, each is remarkably individual in color and intent, and while you can hear echoes of groups like the World Saxophone Quartet and ROVA, the main voice is Golia's alone. Like Chopin's Etudes, this West Coast summa saxophonica works equally well as art and as encyclopaedia. I can't wait to hear what he does with the double reeds, clarinets or Bb saxophones as this project continues.