Guy Salamon: Free Hugs

Holland-based, Israel-born drummer throws a rock-guitar riff, a folky jig, mood music and jazz licks into his whimsical postmodern melting pot

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Guy Salamon is one of the most active jazz expats in Amsterdam, which like most European capital cities harbours musicians from all over the world, not least the influential contemporary jazz pianist, Brad Meldhau.

The last few years, Jerusalem-born drummer Salamon has been energetic in building networks and organising tight-knit groups. He shows similar vitality in his music, a stew of varied sources that is perfectly in keeping with a country that has spawned the uncommonly quirky groups of Willem Breuker, Bik Bent Braam and New Cool Collective.

Witty writing and carefully crafted arranging go hand in hand and it’s apparent that Salamon’s soloists feel quite liberated from the constraints of the usual changes. A good example is Shoulder Folder Twist Rag Shebang, which convincingly builds on the promise of the title and features a sparkling and crystal-clear episode by pianist Xavi Torres and the slightly abstract and soaring lines of alto saxophonist José Soares. Strikingly, Salamon constantly lets his musicians switch between forefront and background and here it is guitarist Teis Semey who patiently waits for his modest but spot-on entrée in the grand finale.

If it isn’t guitar that spices up proceedings, it is flute, tenor or baritone sax that is added for meaningful detail. Free Hugs mixes a fanfare motive with a dramatic melody that sounds like Ennio Morricone interpreting a cowboys-on-horses invasion of a den of thieves. All this notwithstanding, part of the hodgepodge of Free Hugs fails to arouse my spirits. The piano ballad Pompeia strikes me as too conventional and forgettable for Free Hugs’ sake. Moreover, I’m not particularly fond of the two synth-driven bonus tracks.

Arousal, to be sure, is exactly what Fungat Jungle Express and Nightfall II bring about. The former is rousing polka jazz and party-bop. Nightfall II is a fully engaging and rather epic nine-minute mood piece, featuring bittersweet trumpet playing by, presumably, Alistair Payne, who sings on his horn like a fellow that needs a shoulder to lean on. The other trumpeter-of-service on Free Hugs is Ian Cleaver, another bright 20-something that has made quite a name for himself in the 2020s. Salamon is clearly a leader in a luxury position.

Discography
Productive Procrastination; Fungat Jungle Express; Nightfall II; Shoulder Folder Twist Bag Shebang; Free Hugs; Song For Lail; Odd Days; 5,000 Decisions Later; Megalomania (58.03)
Alistair Payne (t); Ian Cleaver (t); José Soares (as); Lucas Martinez (ts); Jesse Schilderink (bs); Teresa Costa (f); Xavi Torres (p); Young Woo Lee (synth, Moog); Brodie Costa (b); Salamon (d, pc, p). Girona, prob. 2023.
guysalamon.com