Samo Salamon: Almost Almond (2011)
Samo Salamon has been compared to everybody from Ben Monder, John Scofield and John Abercrombie, to Sonny Sharrock and Tal Farlow. This list, referencing a group of guitarists that have little in common, will leave plenty of people scratching their heads, but it points to the fact that this young Slovenian guitarist knows no bounds. Salamon seems intent on avoiding any one label, as proven by his string of albums in the new millennium, mixing European and American artists with great results.
The music on Almost Almond covers a lot of ground, moving from gritty, distorted lines to spacious sonic pastures, and Salamon couldn't have asked for a more flexible and creative rhythm team. Bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey have worked together in some highly creative environments before, most notably with saxophonist Tim Berne, and here they combine freedom and focus in a way that few teams can match. Multiple pieces on this album reflect a duality, where the music can simultaneously be viewed as a trio performance and three solo performances at the same time. In other places, these musicians leave no doubt that they are charting the same course.
The album opener, "Monkey Hands," which begins with some fine rhythmic interplay between Salamon and Rainey, shows off several sides of the guitarist's sound. He starts with a fairly straightforward approach, throws in some sonic swells behind Gress' solo, and comes on with a bit of distortion for his only Scofield-esque solo on the album. In contrast, the follow-up, "Lastovo," features his most reverberant tones.
Salamon salutes several of his musical influences here, paying homage to French composer Henri Dutilleux, on "Dutilleux," with an angular, noisy nod, and delivering a firecracker of a performance in honor of guitarist Ben Monder with "Monderous." Even Gress gets his own tribute with the humorously named "Drewish."
In other places, Salamon manages to deliver pretty pieces that avoid normal ballad trappings ("Almost Almond" and "Too Emotional For This World"), and unique amalgamations within the trio context. "My Amusing Muse," which bookends a classically-influenced arco episode from Gress with trio work that builds around Morse code-like rhythm work from Salamon, is one such example.
The music on Almost Almond lives and breathes organically, and moves along paths that have been expertly paved by one of the finest young guitarists in all of Europe.
Track Listing: Monkey Hands; Lastovo; My Amusing Muse; Dutilleux; Pleiades; Too Emotional For This World; Drewish; The Small Buddhist; The Ladybird Is Yawning; Monderous; Almost Almond.
Personnel: Samo Salamon: guitar; Drew Gress: bass; Tom Rainey: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Modern Jazz