Samo Salamon - g (website)
Drew Gress - b
Tom Rainey - d
I'd never heard of Samo Salamon before, but he's been prolific: his website lists a 2005 release and three in 2006, all as leader and all of his own compositions. Looking over the tracklistings, I don't think what they played here overlapped much with his recorded repertoire. The least that can be said is that Salamon is keeping busy.
I figured a concert with Tom Rainey was worth seeing. He didn't disappoint: his center-less polyrhythms were as engrossing, perplexing and paradoxally toe-tapping as ever. He might even have hinted at thinking about possibly cracking the shadow of smile, once. Of late I've been telling everyone I meet about how great the Claudia Quintet is, so going to see Drew Gress was logical. I was ill-seated to hear him properly (are there good seats at the Archiduc?), but was bowled over by a brief arco interlude during which he varied his attack between a pure, straight sound and a fiddler's roughness, while injecting the whole with a kind of East European soulfulness.
As a whole, though, the concert wasn't particularly exciting, although it picked up in the second set. The "modern" reference points were there: early MacLaughlin; the way the sound seemed somehow distant, which I associate with a Mists of Avalon moment since listening to John Surman's Way Back When; the occasional Metheny-ish sing-song melodies, chords and light sound; the liberal infusions of clattering, plingy improv. Still, the writing was in what I think of, perhaps erroneously, as a contemporary NY guitar vein and left me little to be moved or thrilled by.
The second set started with an aggressive guitar solo that set up a better mood. On "My Amusing News"'s (check the song titles on Salamon's discography page, I'll let you decide if they are funny or painful) intro, Salamon accompanied his own expressive melody with rhythmically fine-grained strumming. After a ballad semi-sarcastically called "Too Emotional For This World" came a particularly great piece that imbricated different rhythmic feels and worked itself up into a harmonically spiky quasi-funk lather before totally cutting loose into a wild, blistering whirlwind. Rainey produced a great solo that broke the beat up into unpredictable shards. By the end of the second set I was reconsidering my negative first set impressions, but the encore, a listless ballad, brought them all back.
Afterwards, I talked with Toine Thys (of Rackham fame - their debut album Juanita K has just come out) about the jazz/rock thing. He observed that jazz musicians all tend to have a pop (or pop-ish) band (r'n'b/funk for black musicians, rock for white ones) and cited Seamus Blake and Reid Anderson as examples, as Toine's brother Nic (whom you may also know from Bill Carrothers's trio) played bass in one of their bands (or maybe they were all in the same band, it's all jumbled in my mind). I guess Roy Hargrove is another good example. Is this a new thing? While jazz musicians have always played all kinds of music as sidemen or session musicians, I didn't get the impression that they often led more pop-leaning bands at the same time as jazz bands. Changing times, economics and formative years?