Half Notes: Salo – Sundial Lotus (2010)

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This debut release by the modern rock-jazz ensemble Salo is a showcase for the compositions of its bass player Ben Gallina. The rest of the band includes Alex Hamlin (alto saxophone, baritone saxophone), Ed Rosenberg (tenor saxophone), Josh Rutner (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet), Red Wierenga (piano, keyboards), Alex Wyatt (drums, percussion) and the electric guitarist from that shred jazz outfit Little Women, Andrew Smiley. With the combination of jazz and rock instruments and the catchy, pop-ish but sophisticated songwriting of Gallina, the band straddles nearly perfectly the worlds of indie rock and jazz. In many ways, Salo is like Jaga Jazzist without the electronics.

Nothing demonstrates both the range of this band and the composing acumen of Gallina better than the compelling opening track “The Sky Is An Eye.” It starts with a fetching repeating figure that’s layered, accented and put through a jazz piano solo (a rather nice one by Wierenga, as horn charts bolster the mood), before circling back to its original, low-key state. Elsewhere, the varied approach find common ground in that there’s a little bit of swinging and a little bit of rocking in each track. Soloists are given some room to perform, but the solos are never overly long and the compositions that rarely stay in one place that long don’t allow for undisciplined wanking, anyway.

Sundial Lotus is a very impressive debut by a band delivering fusion that is not by the numbers and done with democracy and tight ensemble playing.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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