The Ansasa Trio consists of three young musicians from Slovenia, who combine Afro-Cuban, Balcan, Indian and Arabic music with the improvisational spirit of jazz to create an ethnic fusion that is engaging and completely accessible. Their first recording, Arabian Picnic
, shows off the compositional abilities of guitarist Samo Salamon, with plenty of interpretive input from bassist Samo Pecar and percussionist Andrej Hrvatin.
While Salamon and Pecar play instruments traditionally associated with jazz, the trio finds its unique niche through the ethnic percussion of Hrvatin, who plays instruments including darbouka, udu drum and bodhran.
While the track "Ten Camels" doesn’t stray far from Arabic roots, "On a Sunday Afternoon at 3PM" starts as a relaxed ballad before moving into an uptempo samba, the difference being that it is driven rhythmically by udu drum and triangle.
Supplementing the trio on select tracks is Vasko Atanasovski on soprano sax and flute, Zmago Turica on violin and Nino Mureskic on additional percussion.
Salamon, a young guitarist who has already studied with artists including John Scofield and Tim Brady, manages to inject jazz harmony into pieces whose influences are strongly ethnic. Pecar shows his funk roots on the aptly-titled "Strange Logic of a Strange Logic" which, with all its twists and turns, still manages to hold together as a conceptual whole. Percussionist Hrvatin, who has studied with Glen Velez as well as Italian and Indian ethnic percussionists, is the find of the group. On instruments as varied as jew’s harp, triangle, cymbals, bendir and kanjira, he propels Salamon’s compositions.
Just twenty-five, Salamon is working hard to make a name for himself, both as a guitarist and a composer. In just two years, concurrent with completing studies in English and German literature, he has managed to record three albums for his fledgling label, Samo Records. Considering his age and experience, both his writing and playing show a surprising degree of maturity; one wonders where he’ll be five years from now.
Clearly, Salamon and the Ansasa Trio are artists worth watching. Arabian Picnic
is a solid debut recording from a group that shows a great deal of potential; while there is a certain innocence, born of youth, in the recording, it displays an intention and focus that is surprising from such young players.