June 20, 2024

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Interview with Samo Salamon: The soul part comes into play when soloing, especially in free moments … Video

Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Samo Salamon. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Samo Salamon: – I was born and still living in Maribor in Slovenia. I would probably say that my mother got me interested in music. She wanted me to play an instrument, so I started with classical guitar.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the guitar? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the guitar?

SS: – I initially wanted to play drums, but since we lived in an apartment, it was not possible, so guitar was the other option and I don’t regret it. I started by playing classical guitar, then slowly I progressed to metal and rock (Metallica, Dire Straits, The Beatles), went through a blues phase (Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King…), then my guitar teacher gave me a CD Pat Metheny Group: The Road to You, which completely messed up my mind and I became virtually obsessed with jazz. I started exploring all the jazz guitarists, from Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery, Grant Green to more modern players like John Scofield, Bill Frisell, John Abercrombie, Ben Monder, Adam Rogers, etc. Otherwise, extremely important for my development and especially motivation was my experience with John Scofield, with whom I was able to stay for a month or so in New York in 2000, that was huge motivationally.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

SS: – I have to say that you are always improving your playing, style, sound and language, but primarily I have learned playing through transcribing a lot of solos. I started with guitarists, then I did many transcriptions of saxophone players – I think I transcribed probably every solo of Ornette Coleman from his classic quartet, did also a lot of transcriptions of Chris Potter, Joe Lovano, Miles Davis and Hank Mobley. But I also had a really strong practice routine – for a few years, I practiced every day for 5-6 hours (transcribing solos, listening to music, technical exercises, theory, etc.). I would say that through listening and transcribing to a lot of saxophone players, I have developed a very strong legato technique. I try to solo in terms of breathing as far as phrasing is concerned…never forget about breathing when playing…

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

SS: – Yeah, I still try to practice every day for 2 hours. Sometimes this is not possible due to teaching or studio commitments or concerts, but usually I find the time to do it. I usually practice technical exercises to keep in shape, scales, arpeggios, legato techniques…as far as rhythm is concerned, I analyze a lot of music, listen to it…

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

SS: – Hmm, I try to think in terms that everything is allowed and possible. I try to find new harmonic possibilities, cadences that keep the music interesting. In the last few years, I have also been very interested in combining composed written-out parts with free improvisation. In this way, you get composition but also a strong sense of freedom, which I think is very important for jazz.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

SS: – It’s in constant interplay … I would say that in my case intellect comes in play especially in composing, which is usually very thought-through and planned. My compositions are usually full of rhythmical, melodic and harmonic elements that are intertwining. The soul part comes into play when soloing, especially in free moments when one has to keep his ears open to lead the music somewhere!

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

SS: – Well, an interesting experience was recording my first time in New York in 2004. I called up a fantastic trio of musicians – Tony Malaby on saxophone, Mark Helias on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. They had been playing together for 10 years or more then, so they were really tight. I wrote 10 compositions and we recorded everything in two hours, so that was shocking that music can happen so naturally and easily.

JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?

SS: – Every musical experience has been important, since from each one I have learned something new. But yeah, to be able to play with some of my musical heroes, such as Paul McCandless (from the legendary group Oregon) has been amazing. Also to be able to play with such amazing musicians as John Hollenbeck, Dave Binney, Donny McCaslin, Tim Berne, Tom Rainey, Mark Turner, Tyshawn Sorey, John Hebert, Mark Helias, Gerald Cleaver, Howard Levy, Michel Godard, Stefano Battaglia and many others, that’s been incredible! I never thought this would happen.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

SS: – Well, I guess they do not necessarily have to listen to standards. Probably to get them interested in modern jazz, which is a lot more open to other directions of music, such as pop, metal, rock, folk…it’s become one big conglomerate of everything, which is great. Jazz shouldn’t be considered as a purist music, it is all one big music family!

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

SS: – Uf, tough one. I don’t understand it J Still questioning every day what is the purpose of everything, especially if you are a musician or artist there is a lot of questioning and struggle going on. A lots of ups and downs, but I guess that’s how it is.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

SS: – I wouldn’t say fear or anxiety, but yeah I would say I am worried for the future of live jazz, especially since a lot of clubs and venues are being closed and shut-down in Europe. There are less and less places for playing modern jazz music, but let’s hope for the best…evolution, I guess…

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

SS: – Yeah, probably that people would again start buying more records and visiting more shows, that they would be more inquisitive musically. So, I guess digitalization of the music brought many good times, but basically it also destroyed the music industry and the income for artists, so nowadays you have to invest a lot of time into promotion, a lot of DIY, which is exhausting of course. But, yeah, that’s reality.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

SS: – I like exploring new things, so there are some new upcoming CDs for 2018 and 2019 – a duo CD with the great Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia and a trio CD with violist Szilard Mezei and drummer Jaka Berger. Otherwise, I have a long promotional tour in October 2018 with the great Howard Levy on harmonica and Bojan Krhlanko on drums with concerts in Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland and Croatia to promote our new duo CD Samo Salamon & Howard Levy: Peaks of Light. And, yeah, like I said another release for Clean Feed with a bassless trio – again with Tony Malaby on tenor/soprano saxophone and a Slovenian drummer Dre Hočevar.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

SS: – Yeah, like I said all kinds of music have been meshed up lately. You can listen to some modern jazz and it would have influences of Meshuggah, Coltrane, world folk music, improvisation and Stravinsky, which is of course great…there shouldn’t be any limits what you are allowed to do or not. So, yes, there are differences and similarities, whereby jazz (besides blues) is still the only music which is strongly and/or mostly based on improvisation.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

SS: – I’m still following what’s going on in jazz, so yeah I listen to a lot of US and European jazz just to follow what’s happening, but more and more I’m listening to other kinds of music. I’m still obsessed with grunge groups like Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, I listen to many progressive bands like Animals as Leaders and Meshuggah, but on the other hand lots of older groups like Dire Straits or Peter Gabriel… and I have been listening to a lot of singers / songwriters – I have become a huuuuuuge fan of Ben Howard. Brilliant music!

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

SS: – Wow, ok … so, probably first to the dinosaur era – that I would be able to float in a safe bubble and observe these amazing huge creatures that had lived on this planet, that would be almost surreal. And then, I guess to be able to see someone like John Coltrane in a concert …

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself …

SS: – Yeah, can you recommend some great books to read and cool indie bands to check out?

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. Sorry, I do not know.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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