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Slovenian guitarist Samo Salamon has been incredibly prolific throughout his career, having released 40 albums as a leader to date, ranging from adventurous contemporary fusion with New Yorkers such as trombonist Josh Roseman, alto saxophonist David Binney, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Gerald Cleaver (2007’s Government Cheese); to edgier fare like 2005’s Two Hours with the Open Loose Trio of tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Helias and drummer Tom Rainey; to 2006’s Kei’s Secret with bassist Carlo DeRosa, Italian saxophonist-bass clarinetist Achille Succi and drummer Tyshawn Sorey; to more experimental, avant-garde outings like 2007’s Fall Memories with his European Quartet of accordionist Luciano Biondini, tubaist Michel Godard and veteran drummer Robert Dani.
He’s led noteworthy projects with other American musicians, as well, including alto saxophonists Tim Berne and Loren Stillman, tenor saxophonists Mark Turner and Donny McCaslin, oboist Paul McCandless, bassist Drew Gress, drummer John Hollenback and harmonica ace Howard Levy. Throughout the pandemic, Salamon was typically productive, releasing a three-volume series of guitar duets (Almost Alone), duos with French-Canadian clarinetist François Houle (Unobservable Mysteries) and Danish guitarist Hasse Poulsen (String Dancers) and one ambitious improvised project with the 17-piece New Freequestra (Free Distance: Love Is More Thicker), all recorded remotely.
While much of Salamon’s recorded output has featured him playing electric guitar in a style heavily influenced by the holy six-string trinity of John Scofield, Bill Frisell and John Abercrombie, his latest outing is strictly an acoustic affair. Indeed, Salamon’s two-CD set, Dolphyology: Complete Eric Dolphy for Solo Guitar, is unlike anything he’s ever done before.
Recorded with just one microphone in the living room of his home in Maribor, Slovenia, in April of 2021, this extraordinary tribute to masterful alto saxophonist-bass clarinetist-composer Eric Dolphy finds the guitarist tackling Dolphy staples such as “Serene,” “G.W.,” “The Prophet,” “245,” “Something Sweet, Something Tender,” “Miss Ann,” “Out to Lunch,” “Gazzelloni” and others (all first takes) on six- and 12-string acoustic guitar, and mandolin on one track (“Inner Flight I”). “The idea of the project began by practicing at home alone during the many COVID lockdowns, rediscovering Dolphy’s music again,” Salamon writes in the liner notes to Dolphyology. “Furthermore, I was inspired to do this album by Miles Okazaki’s great solo guitar Monk project [2018’s monumental six-volume Work: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Monk for Solo Guitar]. We had a long talk this year via Skype and it was so great to hear how he approached Monk on solo guitar. In the same manner, I have tried to approach Dolphy, but in my own way. I have played Dolphy’s tunes throughout my musical career, improvising on them, but rarely in a solo setting; probably because of fear or respect. But now I was like, OK, let’s do it.”
“Dolphy is still quite underrated in my opinion,” he adds in an email exchange in January. “We always talk about Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Of course it’s justified, but Dolphy was right there with them. He was an incredible player, a monster improviser and a remarkable composer who wrote so many beautiful compositions throughout his fairly short career. Besides Ornette Coleman, he was one of the main reasons why I started playing jazz. So it was kind of natural to me that, at a certain stage, I would devote an album to Dolphy. I’m so happy I did this one. It was a challenge and a huge learning experience for me, and I loved it.”
One for Parker
Acclaimed Los Angeles-based guitarist Jeff Parker has established himself as one of the most open-minded, versatile and genre-bending guitarists on today’s scene. Whether fusing outré funk and experimental music with Isotope 217; incorporating electronica and minimalism with a punk-jazz aesthetic in the influential indie rock band Tortoise; or concocting his own imaginative auteur outings such as 2016’s The New Breed and 2020’s Suite for Max Brown, both of which acknowledge the influences of Ornette Coleman’s harmolodics, Stevie Wonder’s transcendent soul and J Dilla’s underground hip-hop, Parker has become a creative force with which to to be reckoned.
His late 2021 release, via International Anthem and Nonesuch Records, is an intimate collection of solo guitar works titled Forfolks. Recorded at his home in Altadena, California, during two days in June 2021 during the peak of the delta variant, this intimate work is heavy on loops, melodic improvisation and electronic textures. As Parker describes, “I am trying to create a sonic world for me to wander around in.”
Tracks like the mesmerizing snippet “Off Om” and the trance-like “Flour of Fur” are clearly the product of a fertile imagination and a delay pedal with a hold function; a kind of digital updating of what Brian Eno and Robert Fripp pioneered on their 1973 experimental landmark, No Pussyfooting. Others are fully realized tunes, like the major key, almost naive-sounding “Four Folks”; the simple, melodically appealing “Suffolk”; and the spare but darkly beautiful bit of pointillism, “La Jetée,” a piece he previously recorded with Isotope 217 in 1997 and with Tortoise in 1998. Elsewhere, Parker delivers an arresting solo guitar version of Thelonious Monk’s poignant waltz, “Ugly Beauty,” which cleverly relies on the digital delay hold for a pedal point effect. He also tackles the 1930s jazz standard “My Ideal” with genuine reverence for the form, displaying some nifty Joe Pass-like contrapuntal six-string work along the way. This is one cat who is clearly steeped in the tradition, even as he is simultaneously striding forward and away from it.
From the Archives
Afro-Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete was acclaimed in his own country long before making a significant impact on the U.S. scene in the early ’60s through his work with Dizzy Gillespie and the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Sete’s appearance with his trio at the 1966 Monterey Jazz Festival was documented by Verve Records and received quite a bit of acclaim, peaking at No. 20 on the Billboard Jazz chart.
Around this same time, Sete appeared at at Seattle’s legendary Penthouse jazz club, where he performed infectious samba and bossa nova classics by Jobim (“Meditação,” “Corcovado,” “Felicidade,” “One Note Samba”), Marcos Valle (“Samba De Verão”), Luis Bonfá (“Samba De Orfeu”) and Baden Powell (“Consolacão,” “Deve Ser Amor”) along with classical pieces by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos “Prelude No. 1,” “Prelude No. 3 in A Minor”) and Johann Sebastian Bach (“Partita in A Major, Gavotte ‘En Rondeau’”), as well as a couple of jazz standards (“Satin Doll,” “The Shadow of Your Smile”) and his own exhilarating, rhythmically charged anthem, “Soul Samba,” in a trio with bassist Sebastião Neto and drummer Paulinho Magalhães.
Documented then and recently released by Tompkins Square Records as Samba in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse (1966-1968), this stunning three-CD set captures Sete in all his unorthodox glory, alternately strumming percussively, chording aggressively in fingerstyle fashion and caressing single-note melodies on his nylon-string classical guitar. While not as truly transcendent as Sete’s 1975 landmark, Ocean (produced by fellow guitarist John Fahey for his Takoma Records label), this is a rare and revealing document of the guitar virtuoso in the heat of spontaneous creation on the bandstand during the mid-’60s bossa nova explosion. - Bill Milkowski