Bar code: 8427328422796
Guitarist Samo Salamon has been influenced by several kinds of music, including classical. While composers like Bartok and Messiaen ignite his imagination, he can also cut a swath out of rock, feed it into his compositions, and get the whole to fit in the thick of modern jazz. The blend often makes for compelling listening. Salamon lets his music speak in several tongues. In doing so, he does not forsake logic or cohesion. As a guitar player, he lets insight hatch improvisation. Together they make for a winning combination, as wonderfully shows this entire self-composed CD, that benefit of a supporting band of renowned players from the New York jazz scene.
"Its may be possible to define an artist by the company he/she keeps, but the harsher economics of the 21st Century jazz world make it an axiom that doesnt always hold true. Its not difficult to enlist big-name artists on a recording if one has the cash. Still, its a positive sign when first encounters turn into ongoing relationships. Both altoist David Binney and bassist Mark Helias have worked with Samo Salamon before, but Government Cheese, featuring the guitarists NYC Quintet, brings all three together for the first time, along with drummer Gerald Cleaver and trombonist Josh Roseman.
Still based in Slovenia, Salamon has increased his international exposure in the space of a few short years through persistent touring and recording. Government Cheese, his second disc for FSNT, is another one-day session like 2005's Two Hours, but it finds Salamon growing in confidence and depth. Earlier albums like Ornethology (Samo, 2003) were a little too rooted in the approach of John Scofield, but Salamons voice continues to distinguish itself on this date, which combines complex form, periods of pure freedom, unabashed lyricism and, at times, some kick-ass grooves.
The metrically challenging The Bee and the Knee, with a core riff doubled by Roseman and Helias on top of Cleavers loose funk, would sound at home on a Dave Holland quintet record. Salamon adopts a gritty tone for an opening salvo of trade-offs with Roseman before returning to the initial theme, which expands into a lengthy and powerful Binney solo. The equally propulsive Eat the Monster is even more charged: Roseman and Binney trade against each other at first, then the situation turns into a three-way free-for-all when Salamon enters with staggered lines of reckless abandon.
The majority of the writing creates contexts for changeless solos, a reference to Salamons love of Ornette Coleman. Still, on the deceptive Her Name, which alternates between dark balladry and a more propulsive thematic segment, Helias is given the chance to work through Salamons warm voicings; Roseman takes over when the tempo picks up. Similarly, The Last Goodbye is a more melodic piece where a relaxed pace obscures its irregular meter.
It might seem that Government Cheese is schizophrenic in naturefrom fiery grooves to open-ended freedom and soft elegance. Still, Salamons growing ability to weave thematic lines throughoutboth scored and improvisedprovides a unified arc that ebbs and flows over the course of these fifty minutes. This is another fine record from an artist whose persistence and hard work is paying off, and whose name is gaining recognition with every passing year." By John Kelman, All About Jazz.
"Guitarist Samo Salamon creates his music in the cast of his band, the stylistic differences coming to life in the particular conglomeration. A man of many musical parts, he can take rock and meld it with jazz, let it swing and let it move with an agile sweetness. He can let structure loose from composition to find a startling, new ambit.
The compositions have depth and strength, testimony to his gift as a writer. He also shows considerable skills as a guitarist, his playing rife with ideas. That he has a top-notch band only adds to the appeal of this album.
The arrangement of The Bee and the Knee lets it move through various structures. Josh Roseman lays the base work on the trombone over which Dave Binney skips lightly on alto saxophone. The contrast is geared by the supple drumming of Gerald Cleaver. Salamon notches it upward, his guitar singing out the melody. When he gets off that track, he opens up some snappy ideas and draws Roseman into the conversation. The most tantalising moments come when it rises and arcs into a more intense groove and Binney spins a web of enticement.
The Last Goodbye is a gentle ballad. The mood is laid back, the calm atmosphere softly stirred by Salamon and Binney, as they weave and intersperse shimmering lines. Mark Helias comes up front on Up and Down, his brief but luminous exploration the messenger for a robust turn by Roseman. Salamon gets into a different spectrum bending his strings, with strafing rock textures sending the tune into an upward spiral. Helias is more pronounced here than on the other tunes and he serves the tune marvelously with his harmonic sensibility."
- By Jerry D'Souza, All About Jazz.