Sometimes two hours is enough. Groups like Oregon and the Dave Holland Quintet have shown the value of developing long-term chemistry, but sometimes the energy of the unexpected can be equally motivating. With the one rehearsal for Two Hours sideswiped by an unexpected grab of the New York rehearsal space for a movie shoot, Slovenian guitarist Samo Salamon truly made the most out of a situation that might have unnerved a less confident player.
The musicians chosen for the datesaxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Tom Raineyare all well-accustomed to working without a safety net. And so, after a brief acoustic rehearsal at Helias' home, the quartet went into the studio the next day and cut the album's ten original compositions in just two hours. But you'd never know it.
Salamon's ambitious nature has been apparent since the out-of-nowhere surprise that was Ornethology (Independent, 2003). With four additional releases slated for this year, 2006 may be the year he makes the leap into greater visibility, especially given that his collaborators include figures like Drew Gress, Josh Roseman, David Binney and Mark Turner. If Two Hours is anything to go by, it's going to be an exciting year.
While Salamon often utilizes a gritty tone that references his appreciation for John Scofield, he's also moving towards greater warmth. "Empty Heart, a lyrical ballad that flows gracefully despite its 3-4-3 metric irregularity, has a 7/4 middle section that's just outré enough harmonically to give the piece added depth. On the more mainstream ballad "The Lonely Tune, Salamon demonstrates increasing confidence in going it alone. His self-contained introduction could easily have gone on longer. But Salamon is a democratic leader, and everyone gets plenty of room to move here and elsewhere on the disc.
The guitarist's motif-oriented constructive approach to soloing is remarkably developed. His extended solo on the jagged "One for Steve Lacy, supported by Rainey alone, is a case of one motif explored and enhanced, gradually evolving into another. And another. By the solo's end, all reference to the initial idea is gone, but the trip is logical and clearly intentioned.
The spirit of Ornette remains strong in Salamon's writing. The lengthy theme of the staggered but still swinging "A Melody for Her opens up to freer interplay between Salamon, Helias and Rainey, as does the even more idiosyncratic "Where's the Bill, a tip of the hat to the wry humour of Bill Frisell.
It's a given that Malaby, Helias and Raineywhose unencumbered adaptability is increasingly evident with every session he doesare as elastic as Salamon's writing. In many cases a recording where a relative unknown hires more visible players can come off as nothing more than a session. Two Hours, on the other hand, with its unmistakable communal engagement, makes the most of the enlisted players' clear respect for the leader. If Salamon's other releases this year approach the chemistry of Two Hours, then this may well be the year for this rapidly developing Slovenian find.
Visit Samo Salamon on the web.
Personnel: Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Samo Salamon: guitar; Mark Helias: bass; Tom Rainey: drums.