Slovenian master guitarist and composer Samo Šalamon is one of those rare musicians whose versatility is not aimless and his unique, instantly recognizable, style is far from predictable. Both of these characteristics are amply demonstrated on his fourteenth release, the double disc set Stretching Out
comprising of two live sessions captured in 2008, and 2012.
On the earlier date, Šalamon leads an all American quartet on three of his long and fiery originals that crackle with spontaneity and raw but elegant brio. On "My Rain/Kei's Blues," saxophonist Donny McCaslin
lets loose an energetic and organic improvisation that gains strength with each bar growing more unbridled without losing sight of its melodic essence. Šalamon's blistering, bluesy sonic swells lay down otherworldly, provocative and angular harmonies that flow like hot lava over drummer Gerald Cleaver
's rollicking, primal and vibrant polyrhythms. Cleaver's galloping cymbal strikes and drumbeats support bassist John Hébert
's hypnotic, intricate reverberating extemporization that closes the tune with an explosive passion.
The freewheeling "Ice Storm" has a singular, logical structure that allows for abundant individual expression within its own dynamic construct. The exquisite chaos of a Hebert/Cleaver duet ushers in McCaslin's abstract, stormy tenor that packs a visceral fury. Šalamon's own spiritually rich, crystalline tones cascade in colorful explosions over Cleaver's manic percussion.
The second recording is with a European band hailing from France and Italy. The intervening four years have endowed Šalamon's sound with a poetic maturity without tempering his explorative enthusiasm. All of the eight tracks have a strong dramatic sense with hints of mysticism. The fairy tale like "Erdevan" for instance has a dark and mythical ambience that drummer Roberto Dani
and bassist Bruno Chevillon's haunting vamps create. Violinist Dominique Pifarely fills the space with a complex, yearning and intense song. Šalamon's resonant, Levantine solo enhances the nocturnal feel.
The Zen "Land of Artichokes" on the other hand opens with Chevillon's sparse bass lines echoing in silence evolve into a stimulating unaccompanied ad lib creation with a touch of eastern quietism. Midway through the song, Dani's rumbling drums enter followed by pizzicato strings reminiscent of Japanese folk music. Pifarely's delightfully atonal violin ebbs and flows over Dani's edgy, intelligently scattered clinks and thrums. Chevillon's ominous refrains percolate leading to an energetic group play that brings the composition to a cinematically perfect conclusion.
As a bandleader Šalamon allows his sidemen plenty room to shine. The melancholic and somber "Molene" is marked by Chevillon and Pifarely's achingly beautiful and elegiac con arco dialogue. The ethereal backdrop of tolling guitar and solemn drums expands into an eerie, flood of notes that paints a barren yet evocative soundscape. Šalamon's ardent zeal and Pifarely's thrillingly dissonant chant lead to an outraged, righteous group cry that ends the tune with an intense theatricality
With each new album Šalamon outdoes himself as an artist and Stretching Out
is no exception. This handsomely packaged double CD has all the makings of an instant classic.