Slovenian guitarist Samo Šalamon is ever the intrepid adventurer of modern music. With each release he explores new sonic textures and harmonic ideas. The 2014 2 Alto on Steeplechase is no different. Šalamon combines his polyphonic guitar-work with the contrasting and complementary sounds of saxophonists Loren Stillman and John O'Gallagher and the propulsive beats of frequent collaborator, drummer Roberto Dani to create a delightful variety of abstract soundscapes.
On the cinematic "Man of Mystery" for instance Šalamon enhances the reverberations of his strings with haunting special effects as he launches into a free flowing, agile solo. Stillman and O'Gallagher follow alternating hypnotic refrains while Dani's drum kit thunders. Out of these funk infused motifs emerges a dramatic and provocative spontaneous group conversation.
O'Gallagher's dry, crisp tone and Stillman's looser more fluid lines often fuse to create intriguingly complex dialogues such as on "Monder Bag." The classically influenced tune showcases their divergent yet well matched improvisational approaches. Their intense and lyrical duet highlights perfectly their respective individuality as well as their sublime camaraderie stemming from the shared influence of the innovative alto saxophonist Lee Konitz.
Stillman and O'Gallagher also engage in intricately constructed and passionate extemporizations on the expansive and impressionistic "Imperfections." Šalamon's angular and lithe phrases and Dani's percolating rhythmic flourishes push the piece further left, flirting with the Avant-Garde, without surrendering its melodic core.
This type of thrilling evolution from the mainstream to freer styles also appears elsewhere on the record. For example on the rocking "Mr. Cynical" Šalamon's blistering; bluesy guitar and Dani's furious rumble deconstruct the main theme as they ingeniously expand its boundaries towards stimulating atonality. O'Gallagher and Stillman keep the momentum going and the ambience taut with their respective turns in the spotlight.
Yet again Šalamon has found a way to make a totally original statement with this engaging and superbly unique album. His restless and bold creative spirit and his impeccable musicianship both as a composer and performer is what makes him one of the most singularly exceptional jazz musicians to come out of the European scene.
Track Listing: Fairytale; Monder Bag; Mr. Cynical; Second Rain; Flux of Silver; Winter
Ponds; Man of Mystery; Moonless; Imperfections; Snail Road.
Personnel: Samo Salamon: guitar; Loren Stillman: alto saxophone; John O'Gallagher:
alto saxophone; Roberto Dani: drums.
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