Han-earl Park

Of Life, Recombinant
New Jazz and Improvised Music NEWJAiM9

Samo Šalamon

Dolphyology - Complete Eric Dolphy for Solo Guitar

Samo Records No #

Antithetical, but equally fascinating, glimpses of solo guitar programs characterize these discs by Slovenia’s Samo Šalamon and Ireland’s Han-earl Park. While each is the result of cerebral strategy, Dolphyology is concerned with adaptation, while Of Life, Recombinant is dedicated to alchemy. Šalamon, who has worked with players like Szilard Mezei in the past, has given himself the task of interpreting on two CDs, 28 of American reedist Eric Dolphy compositions, written for specific small groups, using only six or 12-string acoustic guitars. Moving past interpretation to transfiguration, Park, who plays with sound explorers such as Catherine Sikora, limits himself to four long and very long tracks. But his unconventional use of electric guitar properties, reconstitutes it to more of a sound source than a stand-alone instrument.

One key to Šalamon’s skill is that he handles unfamiliar as well as famous Dolphy compositions and brings out their essence in brief, taunt and informal rendition usually in the three minute range. An almost unknown track like “April Fool” for instance, which encompasses string squeaks that ascend through stop time to a sudden theme statement, is treated with the same attention to detail as a distinguished composition such as “Burning Spear. The latter’s individuality comes as Šalamon uses concentrated flanges and the multi-note frails of a 12-string to produce an allegro reading that makes full use of staccato string rebounds.

As the same attention to detail is applied to every track, the emphasis can move to Šalamon sophisticated string technique, which also tries to impart a unique game plan to each singular outing. Dealing with over two dozen tunes, means he doesn’t always succeed. But his record is quite good. Pieces such as “South Street Exit” and “Lady E” for instance are defined with new individuality. The first uses hardened single strokes to emphasize an expanding Southwestern boogie base; while the second is paradoxically a light version of a heavy Blues line, with extensive frails and detours consolidating the twanging coloration, but ending with a relaxed feel, Even “Straight Up And Down”, despite filigree variations, ends up sounding like a folk blues at the top and in the concluding reprise.

As for the well-known numbers, reharmonizing them in a concise manner often emphasizes the themes’ the durability. Consider “Hat And Beard” saluting Thelonious Monk and “The Baron” which does the same for Charles Mingus. Neither replicate any of the honorees’ licks, with the Mingus tribute played on 12-string, unrolls at a furious pace, with blurred motion strums and slaps against the guitar wood emphasizing speed as additional vibrating motifs join. Meanwhile “Hat And Beard” features a running ostinato, while on top spiky slides and shakes outline the exposition, which is then interpolated with below-the-tuning-pegs altered chord clanks and clips before the head returns. The ringing melody of “G.W.” moves fore-and-back through the interpretation as a deeper, darker sub theme is propelled and swells until both power stroke variants meld. “Something Sweet, Something Tender” on 12-string takes a little from each adjective, with quick fingering and string hammering sprinting alongside woody strokes and twangs, until the narrative fans out into a multi-toned finale.

Trading song interpretation for sound mutation, Park’s performances often negates the balanced string set, wooden body and knobs that definite the guitar-ness of the electric guitar for sourced textures that relate elsewhere. While full string chords are infrequently heard, they’re part of the polyphonic miasma. Sometimes bell-ringing strums, power crunches or mechanized drones are emphasized to the extent that expected guitar sounds are at a premium and arise unexpectedly. Other time narration is processed via barely-there wood rubs, interludes of silence or strident pushes against what appear to be similarly immoveable objects. “Naught Opportune” succinctly sets up this paradigm as occasional sharp string pricks abut grinding buzzes which rumble into thunderstorm-like outbursts. Surprisingly this monotonous drone is pierced by tense frails that expose a quasi-melody before the track buzzes to the end. The concept is evolved at its greatest length during the almost 29½-minute title track. With whispered sibilant vocalized noises sometimes snarling in the ether, muted rumbles inflate to voltage buzzes that include oscillated hisses with silent interludes before hardening into a wavering horizontal line. As over-amplified knob twisting tones and shaking bullet-train-like rumbles become aurally prominent besides the electronic impulses, by midpoint is appears that a psychedelic-era freak-out may be in the offing. Although the narrative echoes from harsh to harsher, yet following an elephantine-like chord variation fragmented parts blend into nearly opaque solid matter and abruptly stop. Like a notable train trip, gratification come from sights glimpsed – or in this case heard – not the final destination.

Making distinctive cases for solo guitar work, Šalamon proves that an acoustic guitar is capable of every sort of profound interpretation. Meanwhile Park show that memorable sounds can be breached even if the single guitar involved isn’t played as expected.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Dolphyology: CD 1: 1. Miss Movement 2. Serene 3. The Prophet 4. Miss Ann 5. Lady E 6. 17 West^ 7. April Fool 8. Something Sweet, Something Tender^ 9. Springtime 10. Hat And Beard 11. The Baron^ 12. Iron Man 13. South Street Exit 14. Inner Flight I* CD 2: 1. 245 2. Les 3. Lotsa Potsa 4. Straight Up And Down 5. Burning Spear^ 6. C.W. 7. Strength And Unity^ 8. Out To Lunch 9. Mandrake 10. Far Cry 11. In the Blues 12. Red Planet 13. Gazzelloni 14.Inner Flight II.

Personnel: Dolphyology: Samo Šalamon (acoustic guitar,12-string guitar^, mandoline*)

Track Listing: Life: 1. Game: Mutation 2. Naught Opportune 3. Are Variant 4. Of Life, Recombinant

Personnel: Life: Han-earl Park (guitar) and Anne Wellmer (voice)*