Mamasaal is a recording led by guitarist Samo Salamon and drummer Aljosa Jeric featuring the relentlessly creative saxophonist Mark Turner. Salamon and Jeric both hail from the newly post-socialist country of Slovenia. Having been recently formed after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, maybe there is something to the idea of jazz being a truly "democratic" art form.
The tunes are all originals: six from Salamon and four from Jeric. Rhythmically and harmonically they're strictly modern: no blues, bebop, or rhythm changes to be found. And there's a haze of melancholy wafting through much of the music. Aside from a few tunes, Mamasaal is best suited to an insular, grey Sunday spent reading on the couch, or a day of introspective listening spent alone gazing out the window onto the city.
Jeric's enigmatic, wandering, and strangely hypnotic "Elephants On Holidays" is one of his two compositional highlights. It's a short, slow, and quirky through composed tune and is the tune furthest removed from standard jazz vocabulary on Mamasaal: straight 8ths, backbeats, hardly any traditional changes or solo sections, and a fadeout for an ending. Though pensive and near plodding at times (elephants at work?), it's one of the most idiosyncratic and inviting tunes on the record. Jeric's gentle waltz "Little Eva," described as "kind of a 'Rosenwinkelish' tune" in Salamon and Jeric's self-written liner notes, is the CD's lone peon to standards, with Jeric's simple, beautiful, and motivic melody the recording's most memorable.
Salamon's most intriguing piece, "The Shy One," is also less overtly jazz and tends toward the pensive and atmospheric. It would fit just as comfortably on a laidback indie film soundtrack. Salamon's guitar sound here is suffused with reverb and delay but remains well articulated, whereas on other tunes his attack has nearly no edge. The ending of "The Shy One" illuminates Salamon's gift for writing entrancing lines. Played in unison with arco bass as a duet, it's Mamasaal's most beautiful moment; a pity the section wasn't longer.
"High Heels" and "Happy Girl" feature two more creative Salamon melodies. They have strong propulsion, singability, and generate the CD's strongest energy. Unfortunately, both tunes lose focus during the recording's only open/free solo sections. Playing free takes deep concentration and possibly a different type of group rapport than what these players have settled into.
However intricate, modern sounding, and proficient the writing and playing on Mamasaal, most of the music remains oddly flatintrospective to the point of exclusion. Elements of abandon and surprise are too few and far between and are mainly supplied by Turner and bassist Matt Brewer. Brewer's playinguniformly creative both rhythmically and harmonicallyis consistently one of the disc's most engaging aspects, with a strong and resonant tone. Turner can always be counted on to play with fire and creativity while remaining true to the material.
Visit Samo Salamon, Aljosa Jeric and Mark Turner on the web.
Personnel: Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; Samo Salamon: guitar; Matt Brewer: bass; Aljosa Jeric: drums.