Samo Šalamon: Dolphyology – Complete Eric Dolphy for Solo Guitar

The Slovenian guitarist, playing unaccompanied, captures the essence of the saxophonist while still managing to make a personal statement

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Hot on the heels of Šalamon’s recent long-distance exchanges with Hasse Poulsen and François Houle, Dolphyology is the latest project to emerge from his productive lockdown. The Slovenian had found himself reconnecting with the music of an early hero, though he is equally quick to credit fellow explorer Miles Okazaki as a second and crucial source of inspiration for this music.

Okazaki’s own lockdown legacy had been a monumental six solo volumes of the complete works of Thelonious Monk. Following an online call with Okazaki, Šalamon set about transcribing all 28 of Dolphy’s compositions, familiarising himself with the music’s contours and experimenting with a range of approaches before arriving at these arrangements.

Recorded “live” in his Maribor apartment with no overdubs, the set features Šalamon playing six and 12 string acoustic guitars and making a single but highly effective outing on mandolin. Drawing deep on his toolkit of conventional and extended techniques, he captures the essence of Dolphy’s complex musical persona while finding sufficient space to fully express himself.

Rarely breaching the five-minute mark, the tracks whizz by like fleeting wisps of smoke. Miss Movement dates from Dolphy’s late 50s tenure with Chico Hamilton, and although it is rooted in bop’s formal linearity, Šalamon’s knotty harmonic flights convey a sense of Dolphy’s persistent fascination with the beyond. Miss Ann has been a favourite of mine since Wayne Horvitz covered it with Pigpen, and Šalamon’s playful arrangement nails the sweet dissonances and insane interval leaps.

The jagged and archetypically Dolphy-esque Straight Up And Down is given a suitably reverent reading, but as its improvised section opens out into a serene Towner-esque soundscape Šalamon is taking some bold steps of his own. Yet perhaps the most striking re-contextualisation is Šalamon‘s reading of Inner Flight I. With a near zen-like stillness, the brittle sonorities of his mandolin carry Eastern echoes that suggest a koto or pipa. 

As with any great tribute project, Šalamon takes some familiar and much-loved material to new and unexpected places. Ambitious in both scope and scale, Dolphology is a deeply impressive collection.

Discography
CD1: Miss Movement; Serene; The Prophet; Miss Ann; Lady E; 17 West; April Fool; Something Sweet, Something Tender; Springtime; Hat And Beard; The Baron; Iron Man; South Street Exit; Inner Flight (53.30)
CD2: 245; Les; Lotsa Potsa; Straight Up and Down; Burning Spear; G.W.; Strength With Unity; Out To Lunch; Mandrake; Far Cry; In The Blues; Red Planet; Miss Movement; Inner Flight II (47.30)
Šalamon (g, md). Maribor, Slovenia, April 2021.
Samo Records