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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Samo Salamon & Sabir Mateen - Joy and Sorrow (Klopotec Records, 2022)

By Matthew Banash

Joy and Sorrow is a direct title for this collection of tunes. Sabir Mateen plays tenor sax, Bb & alto clarinet while Samo Salamon sticks with electric guitar. It's a briefer recording but don’t let the length or sparse instrumentation deter you from digging deep. In fact, those qualities reward a close, enjoyable listen.

Salamon’s notes read, “A beautiful, improvised duo session we did a couple of years ago (don't know exactly when) with Sabir...good times…” and really that’s about as much as you need to know.

“Joy” opens the proceedings and the two really pack a lot into this tune while keeping the parameters of tones and notes focused, eschewing scaling the heights for keeping each other and the music on target. There’s a nice playful bounce off one another throughout, too. They use squalls and squawks for effect along the way, not for blind alleys or fruitless searches. The bars and plateaus the duo reach keep inching up as the song plays so by the end the listener has scaled the same heights as Mateen and Salamon. It's also music of its own time, in its own time, unfolding as the notes ring out.

Where “Joy” starts slowly and builds, “Sorrow” begins in “medias res.” Mateen picks up the Bb clarinet, I think, and that noticeable timbral change is one of my favorites in all of music. It always sounds so wood-like to me, a full-throated, husky fluidity that seems practically tangible. Salamon lays down a little reverb laying for Mateen knotty parleys. And Salamon doesn’t step on or intrude. Mateen returns the favors. They both build up then one will step back and, in that moment, that nanosecond before the gears shift, Mateen or Salamon dig, excavating ideas from the music and mood. Salamon’s solo is prickly yet again within a range that eschews a wide swath of sounds for the plumbing of them exploring what their depths hold, say, and inspire. The track ends perfectly, sounding like a foghorn as we depart a lonely port shrouded in early morning mist.

Salamon opens “Motion” with fluid tones that evolve into sharp runs that counter Mateen’s alto clarinet. These two never get in one another's way but still manage to play with each other. Salamon’s playing on this track is some of my favorite. It has a slow, deep groove that hints at funk, as well as in other places on the release. Mateen’s keening tone on the alto clarinet cuts through Salamon’s lush sound in a deft rapport.

Mateen names the last track after it concludes. It's a brief excursion that could pass for a sweet tenor/bass duo, one with a slightly smoky sax and a plucky bass. “That was it,” says Mateen as Salamon’s guitar fades and the session ends. A simple wistful finish in the spirit of the recording.