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Two by Two at San Diego Center for the Arts

Two exciting versions of reeds and drums took center at a quiet San Diego Center for the Arts on Nov. 16

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    Nathan Hubbard
    Woodwind master Vinny Golia (pictured) performed with drummer Nathan Hubbard at the San Diego Center for the Arts on Nov. 16.

    The San Diego Center for the Arts has been doing great work -- quietly -- for the last few years, staging incredibly creative music with some of the best players from San Diego and beyond. The Nov. 16 concert featuring duos -- woodwind master Vinny Golia with drummer Nathan Hubbard and UCSD professor David Borgo on soprano saxophone and electronics with drummer Jeanette Kangas -- was inspiring, yet sparsely attended.

    David Borgo and Jeanette Kangas

    Borgo came out spinning long tones over Kangas' rattlesnake brushes, both quickly morphing into different stratagems of electronic mayhem and multiple rhythmic suggestions. On a stripped down kit, Kangas kept a constant, churning level of activity going, independent yet related to Borgo's serpentine winding and the sandstorm clouds of synthesized noise triggered by microphones and an iPad.

    Borgo manipulated some regenerative feedback to open the second piece, transitioning into multiphonics and strangled screaming, while Kangas responded with intuitive counterpoint and wicked, mallet-driven polyrhythms. At times, the pair even swung in the broadest conventional interpretation.

    Vinny Golia and Nathan Hubbard

    Golia began with split-tones emitted from a custom-built "G" soprano saxophone, using stop-and-start tactics and startling velocity in tangent to Hubbard's waves of percussion. Circular breathing produced long streams of warbled multiphonics accompanied by hand-drum-driven ethnic beats. Hubbard struck a gong with a large, soft mallet for a glacial downbeat, while Golia played the snake charmer.

    Golia pulls from a deep well of spontaneous ideas, and everything he conjures has the feel of a written melody. Throughout the evening, he morphed from one instrument to the next, picking up a piccolo, alto flute and clarinet in succession as Hubbard's manic flow filled in the blanks between instrument changes. The reed-master's command of extended techniques was quite breathtaking, with growls and various vocalization effects transforming each instrument into a vessel of personal expression, and when he picked up the tiny soprillo saxophone for a series of repeated fragments, Hubbard tossed everything plus the kitchen sink into the sonic maelstrom.

    All four musicians took the stage for the finale, a wild give-and-take swirl of orbiting horns and shake, rattle and rolling percussion. It was an amazing event that deserved a much wider audience.

     Robert Bush is a freelance jazz writer who has been exploring the San Diego improvised music scene for more than 30 years.