Slovenian guitarist Samo Å alamon's '03 recording Ornethology
was something of an epiphany. From the most unlikely of places, a young artist had emerged, not only possessing a frightening command of his instrument, but also gifted with the kind of maturity and artistic vision that would be remarkable regardless of age or origins. While that disc reflected a relatively newfound interest in the music of Ornette Colemanit consisted largely of original compositions in the spirit
of Colemanhe has also been an incredibly hard-working player, with five different projects going on concurrently, including the ethnic musings of his Ansasa Trio and its '02 recording, Arabian Picnic
Two years later Å alamon hasn't let up a bit. His new album, the live Ela's Dream, continues to explore the path set down by Coleman, in particular with his early-'60s Atlantic recordings. What is becoming clear, however, is that Å alamon is integrating Coleman's spirit into pieces that, while providing plenty of space for improvisationÅ alamon's five compositions range from ten to twenty minutesalso demonstrate a stronger disposition to form.
The odd-metered riff of "Broken Windows and its circuitous theme reflect a structural idiosyncrasy reminiscent of alto saxophonist David Binney's writingand, indeed, Binney can be found as a member of Å alamon's sextet. Ultimately, however, Å alamon's form is used as a foundation for a powerful saxophone tradeoff between Binney and Achille Succianother alto player, who returns from Ornethology and possess a slightly sweeter tone as compared to Binney's edgier timbre. The two saxophones raise the heat, leading into a fiery guitar/drum duet between Å alamon and Zlatko KauÄiÄ, another Ornethology alumnus who has been something of a mentor to Å alamon over the past few years.
That Å alamon bears some resemblance to John Scofield is no surprise; he studied with Scofield, and he adopts a similarly gritty tone. But whereas Scofield is full of grease and blue notes, Å alamon possesses more of a European aesthetic, coupled with a looser sense of freedom and elasticity with time that brings to mind Sonny Sharrock or James "Blood Ulmer at his more adventurous.
Å alamon's playing reflects a barely controlled intensity. Even "Emotional Playground, which begins as a gentle ballad, ultimately resolves into an odd-metered core, featuring a searching solo from Å alamon that gradually builds in power. Å alamon demonstrates a palpable evolution since Ornethology, now far more capable of shaping an extended solo and giving it form over the long run.
And Ela's Dream is but the first in a series of recent collaborations that includes two sessions from a visit to New Yorka quintet date with Binney, trombonist Josh Roseman, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Gerald Cleaver; and a quartet date with saxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Mark Helias, and drummer Tom Rainey. Å alamon is aligning himself with all the right players and he's clearly evolving at a rapid pace. Hopefully these two New York sessions and Ela's Dream will garner him the attention he rightfully deserves.
Visit Samo Å alamon on the web.