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Duality-- Samo Salamon Bassless Trios

This CD features two of Slovenian guitarist Salamon's "bassless trios," the US Trio with alto saxophonist Tim Berne and drummer Tom Rainey, and the European Trio with altoist-bass clarinetist Achille Succi and drummer Roberto Dani. The first four tracks were recorded during the US Trio's 2008 tour of Europe, while the last seven tracks with Succi and Dani come from a 2010 session.

The opening "Blistering" is a funky theme that inspires a Salamon solo that is an infectious exercise in call and response between thrusting upper and lower register phrases. Berne follows in suspended slow motion, soon building in intensity as the guitarist offers jagged commentary. "Flying Potatoes" has a similar structure to "Blistering," almost an extension of it, but welcome nonetheless for the apparent differences that emerge. A compelling alternate take in a sense.

"Mea Culpa" provides an outstanding example of the various appealing soundscapes Samo can create on his guitar seemingly at will, in this case from the Far East to India. Berne's penetrating tone and expressiveness are sustained throughout a solo of woven emotions. Salamon's John Scofield influence is quite evident in the circuitous head of "Twists and Turns," especially in the unison guitar/alto exposition of it, which evokes Scofield with Kenny Garrett. Past the theme, however, the trio ventures "outside" to cast their own identity in an extremely zealous contrapuntal workout, with Rainey more than holding his own.

Oddly enough, Salamon does not play a solo on any of the first three selections by his European Trio. "Falcon's Flight" has a long-toned stair-stepping theme that lends itself to Succi's piercing yet breathy delivery on alto. His solo at first unhurriedly delves into the thematic material, before introducing more ecstatic multi-noted, multiphonic exclamations. Salamon backs him with an ostinato that's more pianistic than string sounding. Succi's tone is reminiscent of Arthur Blythe's at times, capturing that same flavorful combination of sweetness and near shrillness.

"Roofs in the City" is essentially an alluringly robust vamp. Succi improvises unaccompanied in a contrastingly restrained legato fashion for the duration of this short piece. "Kei's Garden" suggests a raga in its melodic and rhythmic content, although Succi's bluesy alto, with a heavy vibrato, keeps at least one foot in the Western hemisphere. His solo is superb, building melodically with both deliberation and passion.

"Road to Nantucket" is a gracefully articulated solo performance by Salamon, yet another testament to his versatility. A memorable track, it serves as an extended intro to the succeeding "Nantucket," where Succi adds some bite to the prevailing tranquil mood. The guitarist surges into his own more extroverted statement before Succi reclaims the winding theme.

Succi switches to bass clarinet for the concluding two performances, displaying great overall control and remarkably sustained intonation on the difficult instrument, akin to the approach, command, and resulting brilliance of Michael Portal. Salamon's solo on "The Weight of One Daisy" is chock full of hurtling single-note lines, as Succi vamps effectively beneath him. This track possesses the same kind of simmering tranquility as "Nantucket." "Asking for a Break" offers perhaps the best display of this trio's rapport, as the dynamic drummer Dani is brought more noticeably into the swirling fray here than elsewhere.

All the diverse compositions on "Duality" are by Salamon, and after his now dozen or so CDs it can truly be said that he has come into his own as a complete jazz artist--player, composer, and arranger.

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Scott Albin