With Ela's Dream, young Slovenian guitarist Samo Salamon has made an album that is not only top shelf, it may be important as well. With its variety, movement, and sheer joyous energy, this program presents jazz as a music of almost infinite possibilies. And finally, with four Europeans in the band, Salamon's group swings like mad, making a powerful statement that European jazz musicians are making music that equals, and arguably surpasses, in both creativity and swing, a lot of American jazz.
Salamon plays guitar with a serrated edge, giving him a sound somewhare between John Scofield, with whom he once studied, and Sonny Sharrock. He adds an almost dizzying energy, and he swings hard. The net effect is what Ornette Coleman might sound like if his primary instrument were guitar instead of alto saxophone. At times, Salamon's writing, with its catchy themes, also bears an Ornette influence. Further, his compositions, with their changing tempos, time signatures, and multiple themes, give the album a nearly epic sweep.
For example, "Coffee With A Girl" is, in Salamon's words, "in the style of Ornette Coleman." Indeed it is, and after the bumptious theme and brief intervals of collective improvising, the band launches into a driving, medium-up swing, supporting wonderful solos by the leader and David Binney. Then they riff, and settle into a medium, but no less swinging, tempo, and Succi roars on bass clarinet.
By contrast, "Broken Windows" starts with a powerful guitar solo, after which the rhythm section plays a pattern in a fast 5/4 groove, and Binney and Succi, this time on alto, engage in fiery exchanges, folding into collective improvising, an alto riff, and a Salamon and Kaucic duet that, with its power and intensity, recalls Trane and Elvin Jones reaching for the stars. Only it's not; it's something new that could only have come from these musicians, in this time. Binney and the rhythm section score again during the middle section of the title tune, which features a long, fine alto solo taken at a rip-roaring, very fast, 4/4 swing tempo.
It's safe to say that there's never a dull moment on Ela's Dream.
Personnel: Samo Salamon, guitar; Kyle Gregory, trumpet; Dave Binney, alto saxophone; Achille Succi, alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Paolino Dalla Porta, bass; Zlatko Kaucic, drums.