Upon receiving this CD, the first thing some listeners will do is to check the year when it was first issued and the label that released it. Let me save you the trouble: remarkably, this is the very first time this album has ever been released. Given the quality of the music and playing here, that seems an unforgiveable oversight by someone, which the Paris-based Dark Tree label has now remedied. Recorded live in May 1979 at one of the reputed Sunday-night concerts held at LA's Century City Playhouse, the album features then 33-year-old Vinny Golia on assorted woodwind instruments, Glen Ferris on trombone, Bobby Bradford on cornet and John Carter on clarinet, collectively called Vinny Golia Wind Quartet.
That quartet of two brass and two reeds, with no rhythm section, was of its time, coming just two years after the formation of World Saxophone Quartet. The pair with Texan roots, Bradford and Carter, were vital to the sound of Golia's quartet, their interweaving lines displaying years of experience of each other, dating back to the late 60's when they were together in New Art Jazz Ensemble. (Incidentally, in 2015 Dark Tree also released the pair's fine album No U Turn, of music dating back to 1975.) Golia's written chamber-music themes provided structured contexts for the quartet, which could have sounded too polite and controlled without the life and energy breathed into them by the players' solos, notably those from Bradford and Carter. Golia balanced the quartet's instrumentation well, his choice of Ferris on trombone adding depth to the soundscape, and his own combinations of piccolo flute, C flute, alto flute, bass clarinet and baritone sax on different tracks giving it colour and variety.
The album features both sets from the concert, the first one consisting of two pieces that run for just over twenty-six minutes, while the second has three pieces and runs for thirty-seven minutes. Right at the heart of the performance, opening the second set, is the two-part composition "Chronos I" and "Chronos II", a tour de force that plays to the quartet's strengths and allows them all time and space to show what they can do. The album is brought to a stunning conclusion by "The Victims (for Steve Biko)", a sedately-paced composition with a fittingly mournful tone that does justice to its title and its dedicatee. The recording deservedly closes to the sound of warm applause. An album to treasure. Let's hope for more such gems from Dark Tree.
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