Samo Salamon is a young guitarist from Slovenia who may qualify as one of the hardest working musicians around. Since emerging on the scene a mere two years ago, he has recorded three albums with three different groups, and has at least five other projects either on the go or on the horizon. With Ornethology
, Salamon pays tribute both to Ornette Coleman and to one of his primary influences, John Scofield. The result is a captivating program of contemporary jazz which, while there is some emphasis on free playing, has a construction and focus which puts it well ahead of other recordings of its kind.
Think early 90s Blue Note Scofield, with less grease and blues and a more European aesthetic. While Salamon’s compositions borrow liberally from the American tradition, there is a certain Eastern European sensibility. "The Creative Force" starts as a tender ballad which, no sooner is the mood established, moves into a 7/4 section which has the rhythm section developing a very Middle Eastern feel that links this project into one of Salamon’s other bands, the Ansasa Trio.
The opening track, "A Fake Monk" clearly owes to its namesake, but from a very Scofield-like point of view. "Something Ology" also owes a clear debt to Monk, with its liberal quoting of "Straight, No Chaser". Other tracks, such as "Where’s the Bill" are more direct homage to the main subject of the recording. Salamon states in his liner notes, in fact, that the idea for the recording came from extensive wood shedding of Coleman’s Atlantic Years box, Beauty is a Rare Thing
. One of the lessons Salamon has learned is how to write tunes which seamlessly shift from tight ensemble passages to total free playing, as evidenced by "Alien Child".
If Salamon is still developing a voice on guitar, his writing is remarkably developed and mature for his young age. As a guitarist he is certainly capable, but the influences are still worn too much on his sleeve. As a writer however, while the influences are also evident, he has managed to assimilate them with his own life experiences into something that is more distinctive and abstruse.
Salamon has surrounded himself with as group of exceptional European musicians. While Salamon is still gaining widespread experience, the rest of the group has a collective résumé that includes work with artists as diverse as Kenny Wheeler, Enrico Rava, Erik Friedlander, Lee Konitz, Carla Bley and Steve Coleman. Zlatko Kaucic is a Slovenian drummer who deserves wider recognition; like Salamon he has assimilated his own experiences with an obvious love of the American tradition; he clearly understands the meaning of swing, and is a sensitive and erudite player. Italian Achille Succi is confident on both alto saxophone and bass clarinet. His alto solo on the ballad, "Two Poles", is tender and poignant. Bassist Salvatore Maiore, also from Italy, is a firm anchor with a big, round sound.Ornethology
is strong evidence that Samo Salamon is a young musician to watch; with a maturity and vision greater than his years, there is little doubt that he is developing into an artist of consequence; the only hope is that he can break free of the barriers of his own country and garner the broader audience he so richly deserves.