Vinny Golia: Far From the Whole Wheat Movement
When free jazz, multi-instrumentalist Vinny Golia first set foot in Los Angeles in the early 1970s he wasn't expecting to stay. But circumstances dictated he was here for good, so Golia embarked on a project that helped him become one of the most important guardians of the more experimental pockets of West Coast jazz history.
Thirty-five years later, his project of necessity, Nine Winds Records, is celebrating its unstoppable mission with a Wednesday night June residency at the Blue Whale.
The self-taught woodwind genie has a sound that can bellow like a foghorn or squeak like a nest full of birds; it's frenetic, unstoppable, and a far cry from what anyone might consider commercial.
"We already saw the writing on the walls. If you weren't living in New York City, you weren't going to get a record deal. I thought maybe I'd have to do it for two or three years," Golia says. "And then people started taking notice. And then there were other people I was playing with who had records they wanted to release." After unleashing four of his own challenging albums over three years, Golia took a left turn with the more subdued debut of guitarist Nels Cline and the late bassist Eric Von Essen, Elegies.
"They got killed in the press," Golia recalls. "It was totally divided. They either totally loved it or hated it. One guy called it 'another entry into the whole wheat movement.' It was automatically classified as new age because it didn't have any sweaty saxophone players."
Thankfully Golia has never been afraid of challenging an audience. Over the next twenty plus years he continued to release his own sweaty albums, plus recordings by the likes of string-man Jeff Gauthier (The Present), drummer Alex Cline (Not Alone) and pianist Wayne Peet (Down In-Ness) that would further broaden the sound of the coastal fringe.
By the turn of the century, Golia found himself teaching classes at the educational center of that fringe, CalArts. "I'm not really a 'jazz' jazz guy. I have no idea where I fit into that category," he says. And that made him a perfect fit for the school.
More than a dozen years later, Golia is a full-time faculty member, imparting his knowledge while also absorbing the youth that has breathed new life into his composing, his performing and especially his label. "I like the younger kids because they are so respectful of the traditions," says Golia. "They know the history but they have other new things that they bring into it. It's really smoking. It's kind of the way it should be."
With a back-catalogue of over 200 albums, Nine Winds and Golia's legacy is well-documented. That he continues to innovate and inspire with the same uncompromising DIY ethos that he started with is icing on the cake. Rather than focus on the label's ground-breaking past, the residency will feature some of the newest additions to the Nine Winds roster which includes numerous CalArts alums like trumpeter Dan Rosenboom and the far-reaching quartet Slumgum.
"It always feels like we're expanding. New people keep coming but no one goes away," says a hopeful Golia. "It's like an amoeba. It keeps stretching out and engulfing something else."
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