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VINNY GOLIA LARGE ENSEMBLE

at REDCAT, April 1

What a
beautiful storm. It’s been obvious for ages that, though swaths of jazz
improvisation sweep through the music of Vinny Golia’s Large Ensemble,
it deserves the same cash & bash underwriting as modern classical
symphonic blowharderie. Now Golia’s big machine has revved in REDCAT,
the garage-moderne adjacent to Disney Hall; the next stop ought to be
the big stage. And after writing over 300 compositions for the Large
Ensemble, which debuted in 1982 at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall with “only”
28 members, Golia is so ready.

The blissed-out audiences for
this two-night stand didn’t know that the Ensemble had passed “Go”
after exactly three rehearsals. “Vinny got some really good readers,”
percussion mainstay Brad Dutz told me after the first segment, which
set new standards for flow despite some of Golia’s most ambitious
writing. Woodwinds brooded, Russian fanfares sounded, Caribbean rhythms
perked while a series of soloists poured it on (special award: Harry
Scorzo on torn Romanian violin). Golia set up ever-changing contrasts
as only he can, squeezing every dynamic possibility and tonal extreme
from his now 40-some-strong genii (plaque to Wayne Peet on theremin),
and sliding gracefully through tough transitions thanks to taut
wristwork from conductor Marc Lowenstein. Golia, of course, played
about 90 instruments, most visually impressive being a vertical flute
that topped him by a foot.

The second segment, if more static,
tapped deep spirit via an African-percussion subgroup powered by Alfred
Ladzekpo’s bighearted throb. Conches, bones, animal horns…What
land is this? Michael Vlatkovich (trombone) and Jennifer Jester
(euphonium), take a bow; you can blow.

My 13-year-old daughter, dragged in by the hair, sat transfixed. No nails required.