Multi-instrumentalist Vinny Golia and trumpeter Paul Smoker made their first D.C. appearance in 10 years Tuesday night at Chief Ike's Mambo Room. A few friends, some family, and a handful of dedicated improvisational music fans welcomed their return.
Bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Lou Grassi completed the Golia/Smoker Quartet and, as much as the co-leaders, the sidemen helped defined the performance. Filiano used a volume pedal on his amplified acoustic bass to produce a beautifully wavy sound that approximated a cello imitating whale sounds and utilized a bow, drones and glissandi to create a wide, warm foundation for Smoker and Golia to solo over. Grassi's drumming was filled with accents. He expertly played around the beat with agile and airy taps on his cymbals and percussion, giving the music a floating quality.
Over the hour-long opening set, Smoker's horn sounded like a gymnast jumping around the harmonic spectrum, using everything from fast, full-toned runs to quiet, breathy effects. Golia, on clarinets and saxophones, played in a less frenetic manner than Smoker did, and their contrasting styles gave the music an Odd Couple quality. Even when Golia began to play free, his harmonic choices were still well defined and his playing had a reserved, Zenlike quality even as the music around him cut loose.