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Three Gems from Guitarist Samo Salamon: Joy and Sorrow, Freed Distance Volume 2/Poems Are Opening, and Pure and Simple

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Innovative guitarist Samo Salamon always thrills with the diversity of his output. Right on the heels of his two-disc solo recording of the entirety of saxophonist Eric Dolphy's compositions,Dolphyology (Samo, 2022), come three very different releases.

Samo Salamon
Joy and Sorrow
Klopotec Records
2022

The first a duet with saxophonist Sabir Mateen, is the short and poignant Joy and Sorrow. Mateen has a distinctively soulful sound and a direct, honest style of playing that perfectly matches Salamon's confident and energetic musicianship. This synergy between the two musicians makes Joy and Sorrow uniquely captivating and provocative. Opening with "Joy," the angular guitar chords and notes are simultaneously passionate and thoughtful as they weave stimulating and brilliant sonic textures. Mateen blows his tenor with measured abandon and peppers Salamon's extemporization with his reverberating tones. Mateen's wistful lyricism complements Salamon's otherworldly dissonance resulting in an absorbing and buoyant performance.

In contrast "Sorrow" is more introspective and angst-ridden with Mateen switching to alto clarinet, the duo overlapping layers of fiery improvisations. Melancholic in atmosphere, the music evolves with both fascinating ideas and raw emotions ranging from ire to despondency. Salamon's solo is darkly hued, endowed with muscular poetry while Mateen's red-hot clarinet spews forth sinewy wails with fervent eloquence. The dialogue ranges from somber quietude to riotous and sharp outrage.

The briefer "Motion" is made up of forlorn and pastoral explorations with Mateen's agile B-flat clarinet wandering serenely over Salamon's shimmering tones. The seemingly divergent spontaneous expressions nevertheless subtly mirror one another and amplify each other's creativity. The tune closes on an exciting note that dovetails into the mellifluous coda, "That Was It." Salamon and Mateen each play it in a laidback and quite relaxed manner and infuse the conclusion with a simmering sense of the blues.

Although they have not recorded prior to this date Mateen and Salamon share an artistic vision that is on full display on this intimate set. Each spin of Joy and Sorrow may last a very short time yet its impact echoes in the listener's mind for a long while.

Samo Salamon
Freed Distance Volume 2/Poems Are Opening
Fundacja Słuchaj
2022

The second is the intriguing and expansive Free Distance, Vol. 2: Poems are Opening with the New Freequestra. Salamon conceived of this delightfully original and stimulating work during the first shutdown of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He put together a large ensemble of European improvisers and dubbed it the New Freequestra. The result is twenty spontaneous creations inspired by poet e e cummings' verse spread over two discs.

Unlike his previous Freequestra recordings the musicians in this iteration of the band are not performing together but are improvising in small formations and are doing it virtually with long distances separating them. Salamon and Italian multi-reedist Achille Succi are the only ones who have appeared on both of the previous Freequestra albums. Others are either newcomers or have played on only one of the past releases.

Salamon opens "into the silver down" with sparse strums while violinist Emanuele Parrini fills the silent pauses with melancholic lines. The atmospheric piece becomes more dramatic as drummer Vasco Trilla contributes bursts of rumbling beats. As Succi on bass clarinet and saxophonists Fredrik Ljungkvist, Albert Cirera and Christoph Irniger enter the interaction among the musicians transforms into a riotous repartee but one with an undercurrent of lyricism.

Some artists like bassist Silvia Bolognesi only appear on a few tracks yet make a large impact. "you're a song to see" features Bolognesi's reverberating chords and resonant notes forming an angular and dynamic rhythmic structure with Salamon's stimulatingly dissonant chords. After setting the stage for a passionate and wistful conversation between Succi and baritone saxophonist Beppe Scardino, the strings fade out only to return with a warm mysticism and a poetic touch.

Salamon does not play on every cut either; sometimes Marcelo Dos Reis fills the guitar chair. On the serene and somber "and smiling" dos Reis, with Succi, and trumpeters Emanuele Marsico and Luis Vicente create a hypnotic piece. As one muted and one open brass instrument overlap their phrases with those of Succi and dos Reis they create a complex, Zen-like chant that is ethereal yet with a sense of foreboding.

Neither Salamon nor dos Reis appear on the title track. Succi, Marsico, Trilla, and Parrini join forces with trumpeter Alberto Mandarini for a provocative and moving five way conversation with a cinematic flair. Parrrini's pizzicato strings sometimes match the staccato performance of the horns and Trilla's crystalline percussion. At others crisp con arco lines glide over and meander into the sonic tapestry created by the quintet.

On Freed Distance Volume 2/Poems Are Opening Salamon has created an abstract yet impressionistic work with like minded individuals. Even though that alone is a remarkable achievement, his ingenuity goes beyond, as he did this remotely while shut in during a seismic global event.

Samo Salamon
Pure and Simple
Samo Records
2022

The third is the spiritual Pure and Simple (Recorded in June 2021. It is a collaborative trio session with Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen and American percussionist Burton Greene / Damon Smith / Ra Kalam Bob Moses. Despite the title the music here is delightfully complex and intriguingly murky. Each musician brings his own singular vision to the eight ensemble originals and a unique take on saxophonist Albert Ayler's "Ghosts."

The latter opens with a riotous collective interpretation of Ayler's main theme. Moses' thundering drums keep the momentum going while Andersen and Salamon echo one another in a stimulating and dissonant duet. The group deconstructs the piece and imbues it with a very personal spirituality. The three artists simultaneously follow their own stream of consciousness and yet remain in sync with one another.

This sublime balance between individuality and camaraderie is one of the hallmarks of this captivating album. "You Take My Arm," for instance, has a distinct South Asian flavor, and is collectively performed. Over Moses' eastern instruments, Andersen and Salamon take turns supporting one another in intensely lyrical improvisations. The tune's ambience is also quite mystical.

There is a pervasive spirituality on this disc that is not limited to the above two tracks but permeates the entirety of the session. "Pure and Simple Being" is eerily beautiful with Moses' various small instruments adding a crystalline shimmer to Salamon's tender, acoustic melody. Here too the dynamic interplay explores eastern motifs creating a warm, transcendental mood. Salamon, in turn, makes his lines flow gracefully over Moses' percolating beats like a river over stones, adding a pastoral feel to the piece.

Intellectually provocative, emotive and moving Pure and Simple is demanding yet rewarding work. The balance between the ethereal and the earthy as well as the sublime synergy within the band make it a high point in Salamon's uniformly superb career.

Tracks and Personnel

Joy and Sorrow

Tracks: Joy; Sorrow; Motions; That Was It.

Personnel: Samo Salamon: guitar; Sabir Mateen: tenor saxophone, Bb & alto clarinet

Free Distance, Vol. 2: Poems are Opening

Tracks: CD 1: all in green; went my love rifing; on a great horse of love; into the silver down; for lean hounds; crouched low; and smiling; the merry deer; run before; fleeter be they than dappled dreams. CD 2: rosetree; you're the song to see; whose all; you're the sight to sing; poems are opening; as if; and earth was playing; at birthday; each; a wish no bigger.

Personnel: Emanuele Marsico: trumpet (CD 1 -6,7,9; CD 2—5,7,8); Alberto Mandarini: trumpet (CD 1 -6,9; CD 2—5,8); Mirko Cisilino: trumpet (CD 1 -9; CD 2 -3); Luis Vicente: trumpet (CD 1 -1,7,8,10; CD 2—1,6,7); Emanuele Parrini: violin (CD 1 -2,4,6,8; CD 2—5,6,8,9); Marco Colonna: baritone and sopranino saxophone (CD 1—2,4,6; CD 2—3,4,5,7,8,10); Achille Succi: alto saxophone and bass clarinet (CD 1 -2,4,6,7,8; CD 2—2-10); Albert Cirera: saxophone (CD 1 -4,5,6,8; CD 2—7,8,9); Fredrik Ljungkvist: saxophone (CD 1 -4,6; CD 2—6,8); Christoph Irniger: saxophone (CD 1 -4,8); Alberto Pinton: saxophone (CD 1 -1; CD 2 -4); Beppe Scardino: saxophone (CD 1 -2; CD 2—2,4,7); Martin Küchen: saxophone (CD 1 -3); Samo Salamon: guitar (CD 1 -3,4,6; CD 2—2,4,7,8,9); Marcelo dos Reis: guitar (CD 1 -1,7,8; CD 2—1,6); Silvia Bolognesi: bass (CD 1 -2,5; CD 2 -2); Vasco Trilla: drums (CD 1 -4,6; CD 2—5,8).

Pure and Simple

Tracks: Tell Yourself; Rooms of Clouds; The Golden Light of Evening; You Take My Arm; Something Unusual; The Moon Departing After a Night With Us; Little Song; Pure and Simple Being; Ghosts.

Personnel: Samo Salamon: guitar; Arild Andersen: bass; Ra Kalam Bob Moses: drums.

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