How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
It matters not that this recording took but two hours to record after very little rehearsal. Samo Salamon was ready with his music, and his compatriots, three well-traveled musicians with fast musical reflexes and good instincts, actually thrived when thrown into this situation.
It is hard to predict whether better music will be made by a group that has played together or one that is new and fresh. Certainly all of us have heard top-notch music from both sides of the divide. Enough has been said and written about the need for spontaneity and how that can be quashed by over-rehearsal. Many times the magic happens when old hands who have that creative fire get together and can be spontaneous because they know that things will not fall apart.
Two Hours bears no marks of the circumstances of its creation. Salamon's compositions are very strong in both melodic or structural components and thus provide enough of a framework for everyone to feel comfortable and be loose. Except for "Where's The Bill," a Bill Frisell dedication that was recorded with Salamon's Italian quartet on Ornethology (2003), all the tunes are new. They seem to share a subliminal connection with each other in that they feel like they are made from the same small set of building blocks. This is not a criticism, but a clear sign that this music represents Salamon at this point in time.
As the album plays, and especially when it is replayed, the essence of who Salamon is right now becomes clearer. He likes melody and has a way of creating a phrase with a memorable contour that can provide real meat for improvisation, allowing the musicians to be free, yet enabling them to keep in touch easily. Many of the tunes have a bop feel filtered through the modern esthetic, which also enables the players to explore and be free from a solid base.
Tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby is terrific throughout, grabbing hold of the melodies and breaking them down, many times playing free sounds. Mark Helias and Tom Rainey create a flexible and solid rhythmic base when needed and break away when the music demands. Very clearly listening to each other and the rest of the band, this pair makes the album the success that it is. For his part, Salamon seems to lay out a lot, perhaps not wanting to upset the balance. When he does take a solo, he is an extreme reductionist, taking his melodies apart into scale or intervallic fragments, at times sounding like he has so many ideas to get out that he might burst.
The arrangements clearly had to be on the simpler side, and yet the players shift alignments effortlessly as if they had been playing this music together for months. Knowing that Two Hours was not the result of long rehearsal only intensifies the wonder of what was laid down in the studio.
Track Listing: Empty Heart; One For Steve Lacy; A Melody For Her; Does David Know He's Not Brown?;
Where's The Bill?; Silence Of The Poets; Mind Breezer; Blink; The Lonely Tune; Coffee With A
Personnel: Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Samo Salamon: guitar; Mark Helias: bass; Tom Rainey: drums.