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Samo Salamon is a master guitarist. His chops go unchallenged; at any moment he could play any note or chord on the instrument. That said, Two Hours is a disappointment. Salamon and his bandmates (Tony Malaby, tenor sax; Mark Helias, bass; Tom Rainey, drums) fall victim to two of the biggest traps in jazz: sub-par songwriting and uninspired playing.
Salamon studied for a year under John Scofield, and the Sco influence shows in Salamon's tone, as well as his lightning runs. "Empty Heart opens the album and is a highlight, almost reminiscent of the great ensemble playing in ScoLoHoFo. Malaby plays an eccentric Lovano-ish solo, while Salamon's chording during the theme is gripping. In this example of superb ensemble playing, not only are the musicians responding to each other, they are also playing with a purpose.
Salamon has freer tendencies than Scofield, and this recording highlights his proclivity. However, more often than not it sounds forced and out of context. The solo breaks on many of the tunes are contrived, essentially breakdowns into space from straight jazz melodies. As I see it, one essential aspect of great free playing is its emotional content. The great free players are able to eschew the boundaries of music and really play what they feel. While Salamon and his counterparts obviously have the chops to play free, they lack the sheer emotion necessary to sustain interest. Sure, Rainey's drums provide perfect counterpoint to Salamon's rushes, and Malaby and the guitarist are completely in synch throughout the recording. But without that emotion, much of their playing comes through as noise.
This recording does show promise. Salamon will be heard from again; his immense chops preclude him from falling by the wayside. And while the songwriting here is not great, it is clear that Salamon is able to write a simple, melodic, catchy tune. While Two Hours is not recommended, Salamon is a guitarist worth keeping track of.
Track Listing: Empty Heart; One For Steve Lacy; A Melody For Her; Does David Know He's Not Brown?;
Where's The Bill; Silence of the Poets; Mind Breezer; Blink; The Lonely Tune; Coffee With A
Personnel: Samo Salamon: guitar; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Mark Helias: bass; Tom Rainey: drums.