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RT 9324 (2004)


Liebig - Vatcher - Golia

 on the cusp
of fire and water


Michael Vatcher: drums, percussion
Steuart Liebig: contrabassguitars
Vinny Golia: soprano sax, stritch, alto flute, clarinet


1. Hurries [8:21]
2. Prelude [18:10]
3. Aftermath [10:32]
4. Transit [7:42]
5. Undertow [20:27]


Recorded live in Los Angeles, July 2, 2001

Jerry D'Souza , All About Jazz

Can fate be tempted? If one has the patience, perhaps. Steuart Liebig and Michael Vatcher have known each other since the seventies but while the former was living in Los Angeles, the latter called Amsterdam his home. Over a spell of time it seemed that never the twain would meet, but then, all of a sudden, Vatcher was off on a surprise visit to Los Angeles. From then on the pieces fell into place, including getting Vinny Golia to play and recording the music, even if the drums had to be borrowed.

What transpires here is music of a high level from three very intuitive musicians. They pick the threads and spin them into convincing extensions, imagination working at prime level. Their sonic landscape keeps evolving; pastoral articulation and free-wheeling harmonic structure, odd angles and some electronica sit compactly in the spectrum. The push and the pressure are witnessed in “Transit,” with Golia describing manifold arcs on the soprano saxophone and Vatcher heating it up on the drums and the air horn; Liebig adds to the momentum, his bass creating whirlwind figures. Matter of fact, Liebig’s use of the contra bass guitar makes for a distinct approach that adds to the temperament.

There is a different cast to “Flurries,” opening quietly on the brushwork of Vatcher before Golia gives it a new dimension, etching the groove deeper on the clarinet and stamping the tenor with his agile moves from long lines that billow to ones that descend in a shower. The sound of pop guns, a growling bass and the stritch are the “Aftermath.” The way they build the layers of sound is interesting as they come together as though of one mind and take the music through different characterisations, including references to Middle Eastern music and swing.

All About Jazz


Stephen Griffith, Paris Transatlantic

Red Toucan begins its second decade with In the Cusp of Fire and Water, which documents a July 2001 concert presenting a rare opportunity for electric bassist Steuart Liebig to play with drummer Michael Vatcher. The two had been in sporadic communication after working together in the 70s before Vatcher moved to Holland, where he became an integral part of the music scene in groups such as Available Jelly and the Maarten Altena Ensemble. A flying visit by the drummer to LA (he had to borrow a kit for this date) presented the opportunity for a musical reunion, and Liebig secured his services of his frequent playing partner multi-reedist Vinny Golia for the occasion. Given the slapped together nature of the event, the performances are remarkably coherent. Golia has an extensive discography and anybody familiar with it will not be surprised by his performance here on clarinet, soprano sax, alto flute and stritch. He's always chosen excellent rhythm sections on his recordings and Liebig and Vatcher provide such backing, while supplementing their primary instruments with other percussion devices, "applied tools and technology". Behind Golia's ethereal flute playing on "Prelude", Liebig plays countering lines of meandering high notes while Vatcher bows his cymbals eerily before the bass lines achieve a degree of coherence and the drums enter to move the piece forward. Golia then switches to soprano and the rhythm section ups the funk content to a crowd-pleasing level, all done in a seamless manner with solo and duo episodes that don't overstay their welcome. The other songs proceed in a similar episodic manner (no composition credits are given so I assume all were collaborative efforts) that effectively maintain interest through the twists and turns as all players listen and react very well to each other. A good start for the second decade, Red Toucan.

Paris Transatlantic


Matthew Sumera, One Final Note

The newest release from Red Toucan, a trio setting for Stuart Liebig, Vinny Golia, and Michael Vatcher, continues in the grand tradition of the label. Vatcher in particular is an astonishing player, shamefully under-recorded. (For those only familiar with Vatcher's playing on Zorn's Spy Vs. Spy, Michael Moore's Jewels and Binoculars, a set of Bob Dylan covers, is mandatory listening.) Liebig, on the unruly E-flat ContraBassGuitar, applied tools and technology, set up the encounter, but certainly no one here plays the starring role. This is striking group interplay, with a generosity and musicality too often missing in such spontaneous combinations. "flurries" turns into a stunning clarinet workout for Golia, with wonderful moments by all. Tracks two and three, "prelude" and "aftermath" (one wonders what happened in between?), are extended forays into collective improvisation with Vatcher's popguns featuring on the latter—an odd but not gimmicky sound.

Golia, as always, is ultimately a melodicist—even with his typically extreme exploration of registers and his love of, seemingly, the entire reed family—and song-like statements never seem too far from his mind. He puts down some aching melodies on the latter half of "aftermath", as Vatcher seems momentarily lost to the world. Liebig's contributions may be the hardest to pinpoint, as his sound is rather mercurial – deeply sonorous at all tempos, sounding both and not at all like a bass guitar. He manages some remarkable speed, counteracted by slow-moving statements from the other two, during the nearly eight-minute (shortest piece on the disc, by the way) "transit". Wrapping it all up is "undertow", beginning with the sound of falling objects courtesy of Vatcher and a warped electronic from Liebig. The opening nine minutes are a model of restraint until all hell brakes loose in a momentary lapse of King Crimson (imagine Tony Levin and Bill Bruford circa Discipline and you'll get the idea) before everyone regains their senses. The remainder of the piece stays truer to form and ends with a swinging outro from Golia.

A wonderful recording, worth returning to again and again; here's to many, many more from Red Toucan.

One Final Note