Album Review: Samo Salamon – Dolphyology: Complete Eric Dolphy for Solo Guitar

Samo Salamon

photo by Janin Vezonik via Samo Salamon (press kit)

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Samo Salamon: Dolphyology: Complete Eric Dolphy for Solo Guitar

Eric Dolphy was a jazz saxophonist, bass clarinetist and flautist who emerged in the ‘50s and ‘60s and recorded for prominent jazz labels like Prestige and Blue Note. Although he left us way too young at 36 years old, he crafted a legacy of genre-defining work that changed the face of modern bebop. Dolphy stealthily walked that line between melodic convention and out-of-bounds freedom like few others. Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, John Lewis, Chico Hamilton and Ornette Coleman were just some of the bandleaders who were graced by Dolphy’s harmonic genius.

Samo Salamon – Dolphyology

image courtesy of Samo Salamon

Samo Salamon is a world renowned musician who was selected by Guitar Player magazine as “one of the hottest 10 new guitarists in the world.” And Salamon is, indeed, globally recognized for his collaborations with everyone from Howard Levy, Paul McCandless, and Donny McCaslin, to Fareed Haque, Tim Berne, and countless others. The intrepid guitarist came to this current project out of the experience of pandemic lockdown. With a lot of time on his hands, he put it to good use revisiting and exploring the intricate music of Eric Dolphy. This music had never really ever been interpreted for guitar before. As Salamon puts it: “I tried to approach Dolphy, but in my own way. First, I transcribed all the compositions by Dolphy and arranged them for solo guitar. I improvised on tunes—sometimes in free improvisation, and in other cases, following the harmonic structure. I have played Dolphy’s tunes throughout my career, improvising on them, but rarely in a solo setting; probably because of fear or respect.” Well, now Salamon takes on the songs of a master head on and bravely documents them in posterity for all to hear.

Samo Salamon

photo by Ksenija Mikor via Samo Salamon (press kit)

This is a full-length two-disc set of Dolphy deep cuts and classics recorded by Salamon in his living room with one microphone and the natural acoustics of his home. According to the liner notes, all tracks were recorded in one take and often include sonic “enhancements” like the meows of his cat in the background. On this release you get nearly 30 tracks total, with 14 cuts per side. First off, many of the tunes were originally performed in an ensemble setting and on some type of woodwind, no less. Salamon’s innate ability to re-arrange these compositions for guitar give them a unique character right out of the gate. His use of string bends and ringing harmonics really stand out and are a nice touch. Some of Dolphy’s more well known compositions like “Out to Lunch” and “Iron Man” really stay true to the heart of the music’s original intent, shining the spotlight on avant garde passages and angular intervallic runs. “245,” “G.W.” and “Straight Up and Down” run the gamut from fearlessly technical and unorthodox to jaunty and seemingly disjointed.

Many of the tunes are performed on six-string acoustic guitar, but Salamon also integrates 12-string guitar and mandolin into the mix as well. Cuts like “The Baron” and “Burning Spear” benefit from the thicker depth of the 12-string. He also employs some really slick quick note phrasing and flamenco-like flourishes as well. “Lady E” and “17 West” seem to stand out for their more traditional blend of balladry, modern bop and blues.

Perhaps it is human for a musician to be in awe of one’s heroes, feeling they may not be up for the challenge. But, suffice to say, that is not the case here. Salamon is a consummate artist that seems to have embodied the heart and soul of Dolphy. And considering the oft non-linear nature of these tunes, that is no mean feat.

Single Review: Le Sonic feat. Robert Lee – “Any Moment”

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Le Sonic feat. Robert Lee: “Any Moment” (Generic Records/The Orchard)

Guitarist Robert Lee Balderrama hails from Saginaw/Bay City in the “thumb area” of Michigan. It was there that he was instrumental in the launch of the seminal proto-punk/garage band Question Mark and The Mysterians in the early ‘60s. The teenage Mexican-American quintet scored a #1 hit with the organ-driven classic “96 Tears.” The song has been a staple in popular culture and on oldies radio and Sirius XM in perpetuity. And Rolling Stone magazine deemed it one of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”!

Le Sonic Feat. Robert Lee – Any MomentOver the years, Balderrama went on to play with Tex-Mex rocker Joe “King” Carassco and also fronted his own blues band and smooth jazz ensemble. Over the last decade or so Balderrama has partnered with Mysterians’ keyboardist Frank Rodriguez and has concentrated on the jazzy side of things. Under the moniker “Robert Lee Revue” he’s released two albums: For the Love of Smooth Jazz and City of Smooth Jazz. One of his compositions “Happy and Go Lucky” reached Top 30 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Chart.

Currently, Balderrama has formed an alliance with multi-faceted songwriters/producers Mike Rogers and Gary Lefkowith. The duo call themselves Le Sonic and have created a legitimate modern jazz hit with the video and audio single “Any Moment.” The tune is based on a fairly simple two chord vamp that is hypnotic and seductive. Balderrama is a student of Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and Carlos Santana, and he weaves the essential melodic elements of said mentors into his silky smooth guitar lines. Rodriguez lays down a billowy bed of velvety piano tones that are the foundation of the tune. Topping things off are vocalist Dennis Collins and trumpeter Jim Hynes. Collins, who sings the ethereal song title’s refrain, has worked with Roberta Flack, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Al Green, George Benson and Bob Dylan. And Hynes can be heard on themes for Masterpiece Theater, CBS This Morning, NBC Sunday Night Football, and CBS Evening News.

“Any Moment” is vying for #1 spot on the various music industry charts, including Billboard, Media Base Smooth Jazz and Smooth Jazz Network.com . For more information on Robert Lee Balderrama just go to www.facebook.com/robertleerevue.

Album Review: Circuline – Counterpoint

Circuline

photo by Rob Shannon of http://fotopic.com/; photo courtesy of Circuline

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Circuline: Counterpoint (Inner Nova Music)

Circuline is a NYC-based progressive rock band that blends theatrical vocals with a very vivid and cinematic fusion-esque approach. The personnel includes keyboardist Andrew Colyer, drummer/keyboardist Darin Brannon, lead vocalist Natalie Brown, lead vocalist/guitarist William “Billy” Spillane, bassist Paul Ranieri, and guitarist Beledo. What’s nice is that they augment the ten tracks here with a series of special guest guitarists from some of the finest progressive sources on the planet. And, to the band’s credit, those guest artists add something extra and unique to each track.

Circuline - Counterpoint

image courtesy of Circuline

“New Day” opens the disc, with a sound collage of musical snippets and taped speaking voices. Atop that is a cacophony of multi-layered guitars courtesy of Beledo and Randy McStine of the band Lo-Fi Resistance.

Guest guitarist Doug Ott, of the band Enchant, and Fright Pig’s Alek Darson trade off solos and ornamental riffs on the personally reflective track “Who I Am.” This cut kind of sets the pace for the inventive and eclectic pace of this disc.

Circuline

photo by Rob Shannon of http://fotopic.com/; photo courtesy of Circuline

“Hollow” is a standout track that not only features great vocal harmonies from Brown and company but puts a spotlight on Colyer’s Keith Jarrett-like melodic fluidity. The lyrics are quite insightful, as well, and could be applied to what’s going on in society at the moment: “Rest your head… no one said it would be easy to change the ways of the land… casting your lines from sinking sand. I don’t want to follow you. I don’t want your hollow view.”

Circuline

photo by Rob Shannon of http://fotopic.com/; photo courtesy of Circuline

“Stay (Peter Frankenstan)” is another highlight that features guest guitarist Stanley Whitaker of Oblivion Sun and Happy the Man fame. This track has a very Pat Metheny/Jeff Beck kind of quality to it atop jungle-induced rhythms. In it, the futility and fragility of life is discussed, with dynamic vocals from Brown that reach the stratospheric range.

Just like the movie, their song “Inception” is abstract in content and execution, with crazy drums and a trance-like mid-tempo feel. Glass Hammer’s guitarist Alan Shikoh adds tasteful depth to Beledo’s lead guitar riffs.

Circuline

photo by Rob Shannon of http://fotopic.com/; photo courtesy of Circuline

“Summit” closes the disc with a smooth, mid-tempo, swinging groove. Colyer’s creative comping behind Sound of Contact guest guitarist Matt Dorsey is textbook in how it’s done.

Counterpoint is an album that works well on a number of fronts: as a collection of individual songs, as a compendium of some of the best and brightest in progressive music today, and as a soundtrack to your adventurous musical and spiritual soul.

Album Review: Richard Palmer-James – Takeaway

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Richard Palmer-James: Takeaway (Primary Purpose Records)

Musician Richard Palmer-James may not be that proverbial “household name” one thinks of in recording artist circles, but he has quite a colorful pedigree. He was a founding member of Supertramp and probably had some of his greatest international success as a lyricist working with British band King Crimson on three of their key albums. The singer-songwriter collaborated with long-time associate bassist John Wetton on the King Crimson releases Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, and Red.

Richard Palmer-James: Takeaway

image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

According to Palmer-James himself, “ Having spent the last few decades writing words for other people to sing, and thus being obliged to comply with the ambitions and sensibilities of others, I wanted to present a collection of songs that are uncompromisingly my own.” And on his latest solo effort Takeaway, that’s exactly what he’s done. Armed with his trusty arsenal of guitars, mandolin, and words, Palmer-James gets back to his roots. Vivid storytelling draped in flourishes of blues and folk-oriented rock is the order of the day. This is music for grown-ups; sophisticated, yet never snobby or pretentious.

Takeaway is a collection of songs that seem very cinematic and stand alone as little “movies” in and of themselves. The lead track “Aerodrome” depicts a dichotomy of past wartime versus modern time where an aircraft hangar, which once housed fighter planes, now serves as a venue for trance or rave parties. In it Palmer-James sings, “Sad to say the world we knew went down in flames… you’ll understand it’s hard to understand your fun and games.” In two lines he summarizes a generational divide to a T. The next tune, “A Very Bad Girl,” is a rousing blues-tinged rocker with a wry and clever lyrical twist. Here he takes the position of initially criticizing this “bad” girl’s behavior but actually has more in common with her than first realized. There are also songs like “Dance for Me” which, on the surface, seems like an innocuous folk song about cutting loose but appears to have a deeper side that deals with persevering in the face of adversity.

Palmer-James is joined on this album by a crack unit of, primarily, German musicians from Munich, where the British singer-songwriter has resided for many years. Co-producer Evert van der Wal does a great job of capturing his mellow honey-dripped tenor voice to perfection. As a result, his vocals add a tinge of vulnerability and world-weariness to many of the subjects in his songs. It’s a performance style he’s obviously crafted after years of singing in pubs, taverns, and intimate spaces. And, perhaps, that is exactly Richard Palmer-James’ appeal, that you will listen to his words and delivery and feel like you’re connecting and sharing a drink with a very dear friend.