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Multiple Reviews

Samo Salamon: Three At Once (Freequestra, Trio, & Rotten Girlz)


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The adventurous (and prolific) Slovenian guitarist Samo Salamon has outdone himself in both departments, releasing three albums in the same month. They are a diverse collection: an eleven-piece free jazz orchestra; a chamber trio of viola, acoustic guitars and drums; and a "free modern jazz punk avantgarde groove quartet" (Salamon's description), with a vocalist and the composer on electric bass (!).

Samo Salamon & Freequestra
Free Sessions, Vol. 2: Freequestra

Free Sessions Vol. 1: Planets Of Kei (NotTwo Records, 2017) was an acoustic chamber jazz session. This second entry is big and brash, and very much electrified. The mostly Slovenian ensemble includes three guitarists and two drummers: six of the eleven players are credited with electronics in addition to their primary instrument. But "Opening" starts out with a conversation between the horns (including Italian saxophonist Achille Succi, a longtime collaborator). When the rhythm section enters pianist Marko Churnchetz takes the lead, with Goran Krmac's tuba. The texture shirts again with electric guitars in place of the piano, finally giving way to Matija Krecic's violin—ending with a blast of free playing from everyone.

"Evolution" is the longest track at over 18 minutes. It takes its time, building from overlapping horn melodies. Salamon takes an extended energetic over-driven solo with the rhythm section, followed by a gentle atmospheric section featuring all three guitars, joined by violin. When the rest of the ensemble rejoins it is for a slowly building moto perpetuo (and a short, gentle fade-out). Other highlights include the lyrical piano introduction to "The Free Suite—Part I" (joined by ghostly electronics); off-kilter piano with tuba and swing drums on ""Part II;" and the wispy electronic soundscape that concludes ""Part III," and the album. There are a wide variety of timbres available in this Freequestra, and Salamon makes use of all of them.

Samo Salamon, Szilard Mezei & Jaka Berger Trio
Swirling Blind Unstilled

An acoustic trio with Salamon on acoustic guitars, Szilard Mezei on viola and Jaka Berger on drums and percussion. The personnel includes two-thirds of the Planets of Kei band, with Berger (who is also part of the Freequestra) substituting for saxophonist Achille Succi. This is not presented as a free improvisational session, but it certainly sounds like one on the opener "Twelve Cats." Berger begins "Wasabi Mood" alone on drums, but is quickly joined by a 12-string guitar and viola theme.

"Rise and Fall" is reprised from the Freequestra album, this time in a simpler, almost skeletal form, with a stronger ballad feel. "Mr. Ornette" has a head with the Ornette Coleman flavor promised by the title: free, but with a bebop flavor and swing. Closer "Free Piece" is a mostly gentle textural exploration, concluding the album with a whisper rather than a bang.

Rotten Girlz
Punk You
Samo Records

Now for something completely different: a punk jazz quartet. Salamon wrote all of the songs, and released the album on his own record label, but chose to use the band name Rotten Girlz. He plays electric bass (and loops) on it, so it mostly lacks his usual guitar voice. But it also features frequent collaborator Italian Achille Succi on reeds, so there is quite a bit of jazz flavor.

"Ego Trip" opens the album with a blast of punk attitude, a scream followed by a relentless ostinato pattern. But it also features lyrical melodies doubled by Eva Poženel's vocals and Succi's bass clarinet. Salamon's usual guitar sound presents itself in the form of loops (accompanied by his bass guitar and bass clarinet). "My Furry Little Friend" has the leader soloing on bass, before another ostinato takes over. There's space for a couple of alto saxophone/drums duets as well (which also spotlight drummer Bojan Krhlanko) .

"Gotta Love" has an especially memorable melody, carried vocally with bass clarinet accompaniment. Succi and the rhythm section take the song to its conclusion. "Home" is a lyrical instrumental, with alto saxophone singing lead. "Punk'd" continues with sax in the lead, this time with an edgy up-tempo feel, including a fleet bass solo.

"Mind Fuel" is the last vocal selection, with lots of vocal noises most of the way, finally concluding with a bebop theme doubled with vocalise. The final selections are instrumental: closer "Black Saturday" is a straightforward modal jazz tune, with a bass pattern and bass clarinet. So a different project for Salamon, if not ultimately quite as punk as promised.

Tracks and Personnel

Free Sessions, Vol. 2: Freequestra

Tracks: Opening; Lost in Rhythm; Evolution; Rise and Fall; The Free Suite—Part I; The Free Suite—Part II; The Free Suite—Part III.

Personnel: Matija Krecic: violin; Bostjan Simon: tenor saxophone, electronics; Achille Succi: bass clarinet, alto saxophone; Ziga Murko: trombone, electronics; Samo Salamon: guitar, conductor; Domen Gnezda: guitar, electronics; Vitja Balzalorsky: guitar, electronics; Marko Churnchetz: piano; Goran Krmac: tuba; Bojan Krhlanko: drums, electronics; Jaka Berger: drums, electronics.

Swirling Blind Unstilled

Tracks: Twelve Cats; Wasabi Mood; Rise and Fall; The Seventh Hour; Mr. Ornette; Free Piece.

Personnel: Samo Salamon: 6 and 12-string acoustic guitars; Szilard Mezei: viola; Jaka Berger: drums, percussion.

Punk You

Tracks: Ego Trip; My Furry Little Friend; Mr. Stewie; Gotta Love; Home; Punk'd; Mind Fuck; Motions of Tenderness; Soft Paw; Black Saturday.

Personnel: Eva Poženel: vocals (1-4, 7); Achille Succi: alto sax, bass clarinet; Samo Salamon: electric bass, loops; Bojan Krhlanko: drums.

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