Julian Argüelles / John Hollenbeck / Samo Šalamon

June 16, 2016


Samo Records 2016

Continuing his experiments with a bass-less trio, Slovenian guitarist Samo Salamon has put together a super group of sorts to explore the challenges of having one chordal instrument – Salamon’s – take on both the melodic and rhythmic roles. Plus he has the perfect helpmates on board. Besides leading his own ensembles, American drummer John Hollenbeck has worked in many groups, as has the now Graz-based, British tenor and soprano saxophonist Julian Argüelles. Like a series of engineering diagrams Salamon’s 10 compositions delineate positions for the players. But like constructing a sturdy structure, each operation takes place simultaneously, with the linkage creating the decisive form.

As the guitarist’s bass-string judders create the ostinato that harmonizes and restrains the narratives, Argüelles often improvises in screech mode and Hollenbeck eschews a regular pulse. Although continuity is maintained, the best tracks are those which smooth and shaggy timbres have equal prominence. “Kei’s Venice” and the affiliated “Drop the “D” and “Pif” confirm this. On “Kei’s Venice”, chiseled guitar flanges and drum clacks set up a kaleidoscopic backing then draw back as Argüelles on tenor saxophone puffs, honks and snuffles theme variations. Eventually like an aural screen saver shifting and reconstituting a new image, Salamon’s strummed bass notes and Hollenbeck’s cross pulses on large and small percussion prod the saxophonist from sibilant noises to calming burbles. Omega to that gentling alpha of “Kei’s Venice”, are the two connected tracks which highlight the band’s potential as a power-trio. Atmospheric as if the chilling jolts built into a horror movie soundtrack are translated into improvised music, “D” and “Pif” steadily advance from the guitarist’s rugged arena-ready whammies that join with thick back-beat drumming and broken-line reed bite screams. Although the three continue to push sounds forward in platoon-styled formation, by the conclusion of the first tune, which fades into the next, wide echoes create a calming interface.

Other pieces range from almost out-and-out folksiness to even harder near-Rock. The first set includes ones such as “Moonless” and “Seagulls in Maine”, where the soprano saxophone takes on oboe-like timbres to harmonize with hearty string rasgueado and Third-World-like percussion flutters. The latter genre is most obviously expressed on the give-away titled “Soundgarden” where snarling sax textures and slashing, echoing guitar lines inflate until they reach a climax of raunchy release. Appropriately enough the concluding “Kei’s Secret” is the live set’s perfect summation, gradually moving from a massed miasma of circular breathed reed tones, dusky guitar twangs and percussion clunks to each instrument appropriately and gradually exiting.

Salamon may not have reached third base with his bass-less trio, but on the evidence here he’s coming pretty close.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Asking For a Break 2. Dawn 3. Kei’s Venice 4. Holla Back 5. Soundgarden 6. Moonless 7. Seagulls in Maine 8. Drop the D 9. Pif 10. Kei’s Secret

Personnel: Julian Argüelles (tenor and soprano saxophones); Samo Salamon (guitar) and John Hollenbeck (drums)