Since emerging from Slovenia four years ago, Samo Salamon has been stepping up the pace with increased vigor. The result is palpable growth, which is at its clearest on Kei's Secret. The guitarist's playing has never been more assured, nor his voice more unequivocally his own, than on this live recording re-teaming him with reedman Achille Succi.
The same can be said about his writing. Salamon emphasizes improvisation, but he's providing ever more sophisticated contexts to challenge both himself and his bandmates. His compositions are becoming increasingly mercurial, but in the best sense of the word. "When We Go Away begins as a ballad where he atmospherically states the initial theme with a bell-like but sharp-edged tone. As the piece unfolds, it begins to pick up speed and turn more angular. By the time Salamon's ready to solo, his tone has turned gritty, his approach a combination of long, sustained notes, skronking atonal noise and rapid-fire lines that are echoed empathically by drummer Tyshawn Sorey. Nels Cline and Sonny Sharrock would be proud.
Succi, best known for his work with Italian guitarist Simone Guiducci's more folkloric Gramelot Ensemble, has continually proven himself capable of greater extremes with Salamon, notably on Ela's Dream (Splasc(H), 2005). A strong altoist, he's perhaps an even better clarinettist; his bass clarinet solo over the staggered rhythms of "Miss Sarcasm is a highlight of the disc.
Bassist Carlo DeRosa's solo on the aptly titled "Catch the Train is a lithe introduction to another tune filled with twists and turns. Still, with a warmer tone and more supple approach, Salamon's open-minded playing is easier on the ears than what came before.
A strong leader can intuitively bring together musicians who may not have played together, before but are perfect complements for each other, and the quartet on Kei's Secret is Salamon's strongest ensemble to date. Whether on a soft ballad or dark funk, this group feels like it's spent considerable time together. Salamon's charts may encourage spontaneous interplay, but the comfort with which the band navigates the seemingly constant tempo shifts of "A Step Back and the polyrhythmic themes of "When We Go Away is remarkable for a group together on tour for only a month.
In the short time since Ornethology (SAZAS, 2003), Salamon has grown from a promising, Scofield-informed newcomer to a guitarist whose voice is an exciting amalgam of so many influences that they're no longer directly relevant. Salamon is no longer an up-and-comer: he deserves to be considered in the same breath as contemporary guitar innovators like Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ben Monder and Adam Rogers.
When We Go Away; Catch the Train; The Return to X-Land; Miss Sarcasm; Kei
Achille Succi: alto saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet; Samo Salamon: guitar; Carlo DeRosa:
bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.
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