What Miles Okazaki did with the music of Thelonious Monk on Work fortysomething Slovenian guitarist Samo Šalamon known for his work with Tony Malaby and Julian Argüelles among others now does with the great wealth of inspiration to be found in the music of Eric Dolphy (1928-64). Solo 6 and 12-string acoustic guitar and mandolin are Šalamon's instruments of choice and he shows huge insight and skill in developing these new arrangements recording them simply at home last spring.
There is a serenity here and a still clearness for example on 'The Prophet' that becomes a very different listen to, say, the Five Spot live version. The space and clarity Šalamon introduces may be a jazz 101 to some craving maximalist group-play. But for others it is an intimate view, an additional layer of expression, into the masterful Dolphy universe. Šalamon says approaching the idea: ''I told myself I should not be afraid to play single lines or be burdened by the great solo guitar musical heritage, which I immensely respect.''
Dolphyology is enjoyable from beginning to end especially on crossing the threshold into less familiar material from the Dolphy canon such as 'In the Blues,' one of the gems here. A gargantuan effort (there are some 28 tracks) that says a lot about Šalamon's discipline and musical scholarship. A lot of passion comes through in the guitarist's playing and on the classic 'Out to Lunch' he also adds something new however paradoxically rooted in history because you are somehow down the rabbit hole and have dropped into a Renaissance world – time travelling. In that process Dolphy's music gains a different, inspiring, kind of gravitas. The cascading cycles Šalamon layers one on top of another on 'Red Planet' is another high water mark and sometimes the mind wanders even towards a Bill Frisell approach in this regard.
So, an absolute must for Dolphy fans the effect attained as if Šalamon took the whole sound apart not only to put it back together again but so we can hear the essence of each piece with new ears, hearts and minds as if for the very first time and yet with a welcome hint of déjà vu lolling about tantalisingly as a flavour. Find the album, officially released next week, on Bandcamp