Eleven Stories-- Samo Salamon Trio

The eleven pieces that make up guitarist Salamon's Eleven Stories CD are best seen as the interconnected chapters of a novel, rather than a series of unrelated short stories. There's a similar ebb and flow, whether grounded or elusive, that runs through Salamon's original compositions (written especially for this group), and the music is always fascinating and often provocative. This is the fourth of Salamon's CDs since 2007 to feature Michel Godard on tuba and here on electric bass, and Roberto Dani on drums, and despite the unusual instrumentation, the trio's sensitive interaction should appeal once again to all but the most conservative of listeners. The music was recorded live during their European tour in April 2011.

Salamon's reverberating guitar and Godard's resounding electric bass set an enchanting mood on the opening "Preface," which seems to be a prelude to a melody that is introduced as "Sour," on the second track. Then Dani's restless percussive effects, utilizing gongs, cymbals, traps and bass drum, combine with Godard's stalking bass ostinato to dramatic and hypnotic result, eventually to be joined by Salamon's adamant chords. The sparse, insinuating theme's return is all the more appreciated by its stark contrast to what has gone before. Godard's tuba exudes bubbling, gaseous sounds to initiate "Cold Feet," with Salamon soon adding metallic tones to his rumblings. Dani's percussion then completes the intriguing mixture. The leader's contribution intensifies, as does Dani's, until the guitarist forsakes skronk for a more dulcet repeated motif that carries the work to its conclusion.

Godard's tuba engages Dani in an urgent duet to start "Ducks on Ice," Godard playing spurting quick-fingered passages against the drummer's persistently shifting patterns. Salamon enters wailing over the others, with electrifying phrases and riffs, and the threesome end the selection with eight unison bursts that mirror the string of notes Godard was running beneath the guitar solo. For "Three," Salamon and Godard's tuba unveil a whole tone scale that they alter dynamically and harmonically. Godard's alluring solo is trombone-like in its nimbleness, a definitive example of his outstanding ability on the challenging instrument. The comforting tune ends much as it began, mellow and pensive. A telegraph key message is tapped out by Salamon that slowly evolves in to the tense, staccato theme of "Dark Road." Electronic emanations then prevail until Salamon's blistering, compelling improv dominates over Godard's stabilizing bass lines and Dani's swirling drum work.

The contrapuntal intro to "Chinese Bath" is replaced by Salamon's Far East-tinged theme, his guitar taking on the quality of a koto, as Dani maintains a percussive banter. Godard's majestic tuba solo is richly intoned and enrapturing, and encompasses the remainder of the track. "White Herons on Green Meadows" is launched by ponderous long-tones from Godard's bass, and divergent delicate and airy fragmented phrases from Salamon, as Dani offers subtle shadings. Salamon's cascading unaccompanied pronouncement is executed with a lovely, glistening sound and moving expressiveness. Dani and then Godard rejoin him for an ecstatic resolution prior to coming full circle back to the evocative opening section. Salamon's dissonant, distorted free-form statement activates "Garlic and Olives," assisted by Dani's chattering rhythms, together developing a tense, expectant atmosphere that goes from crescendo to diminuendo in a flash. The piece then transforms itself into a riffing rock style workout over the final minute, as Godard's throbbing bass underscores Salamon's gushing guitar.

"Kei's Melody" features ethereal reflection on the part of guitar and tuba that is briefly supplanted by Dani's ominous mallet assertions, only to have the duo reappear to present repetitions of a scalar, ingratiating theme with various alterations for the duration. "Sundays" commences with an understated, murmuring motif from Salamon that supplies the foundation for Godard's absorbing, conversational tuba solo that swoops, swoons, and sighs. Guitar and tuba then reverse roles as Salamon improvises passionately in a groove somewhere between Pat Metheny and John McLaughlin, but predominantly his own. As Salamon subsides into melodic wonderment, Godard harmonizes with him for the last few soothing notes.

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Scott Albin