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Samo Salamon Bassless Trio: Unity

Mark Sullivan By

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Adventurous Slovenian guitarist Samo Salamon is one of the most wide-ranging jazz guitarists working today, and one of the most prolific. This is his 19th album as a leader, and his third employing the "bassless trio" format, following Little River (Sazas, 2015) and Duality (Samo Records, 2011). British saxophonist Julian Argüelles (Loose Tubes, Django Bates, Carla Bley) has recorded with Salamon once before on Nano (Goga Records, 2007), while American drummer John Hollenbeck (The Claudia Quintet) makes his first appearance. Both presently reside in Germany. Unity documents a European tour from March 2014, although there are no audience sounds until the end of Track 5, which ends with applause and Salamon introducing the band members.

"Asking for a Break" opens the set with an Ornette Coleman-influenced swing feel. Hollenbeck shows what a great match he is for the format, beginning the tune on brushes, and ending it with a drum solo under a vamp—bubbling with energy and creativity all the while. Salamon contributed all of the compositions, as he always does, but he is also building a repertoire: this is the first of several tunes that he has recorded before. It was also on the recent Little River, as well as Duality. The band can also go into more abstract territory: "Kei's Venice" features an extended sax/drum duet—Argüelles really burns on this one—then ends with a textural section. "Soundgarden" (possibly a tribute to the seminal grunge band?) ushers in the dramatic sound of Salamon's overdriven guitar—another burning duet with Hollenbeck—and ends with a driving ostinato. "Holla Back" is the ballad of the set, but even it ends with a brief contrasting coda.

"Moonless" and "Seagulls in Maine" are two more reprises from earlier recordings. Then "Drop the D" goes right for the heavy metal sound implied by the title, although it doesn't stay there for the entire nine minutes. "Pif" (the briefest track at a little over two minutes) is another start and stop theme echoing Ornette Coleman. I can definitely see it being explored at greater length on a future recording. The closer "Kei's Secret" must qualify as a Greatest Hit: this is its fourth recording since the album Kei's Secret (Splasch Records, 2006).

Every Samo Salamon album goes into at least some new territory, unified by his distinctive guitar playing and composing. This one upholds that standard: another trio worth revisiting.

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