Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Like the Yin-Yang of Taoist philosophy, Salo's music encompasses nature's opposing forces, and reveals them to be different aspects of the same energy. The interaction of these contrasting energies is the source for all movement and action. Serene and chaotic, elegant and awkward, simple and intricate, the dual identities complement one another to create a musical world that is a reflection of the (slightly larger) physical universe. "Sundial Lotus" is the stunning debut album from this ensemble whose original writing thoroughly blurs the lines between jazz, new music, and rock. The ensemble consists of members of the Respect Sextet, Jerseyband, and Little Women, and the seven pieces give a performance that manages to be visceral and polished at the same time, while lending their own individual sounds to the beautiful, wild, and unpredictable compositions of Ben Gallina.
Personnel: Andrew Smiley (electric guitar); Josh Rutner (bass clarinet, tenor saxophone); Alex Hamlin (alto saxophone, baritone saxophone); Ed Rosenberg (tenor saxophone); Red Wierenga (piano, keyboards); Ben Gallina (upright bass, electric bass); Alex Wyatt (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Malcolm Kirby.
Recording information: Bennett Studios (08/19/2009).
Salo is the vehicle for the compositions of bassist Ben Gallina. The band consists of three saxes, electric guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums. These are smart tunes with great ensemble writing that move quickly between various themes and rhythms. Everyone gets some solo space (and takes advantage nicely), but it's really about the tunes more than the soloing. In the opening piece, solo voices start to rise up out of the composition before falling back and moving on to a different section. The written transitions in and out of solos are consistently impressive. "Metamorphistopheles" is a fun and funny mash-up of styles with an odd old-timey breakdown, some gutbucket blues, and something that should have been used as a march in a classic Disney animation. "Orbitron Revoluto" has a tasty understated guitar solo with some nice spacy keyboard work behind it. Red Wierenga also has some great moments on both piano and Rhodes. Gallina favors tricky rhythms in his compositions, and drummer Alex Wyatt not only negotiates them, he seems to thrive on them. But they aren't tricky for tricky's sake; these tunes swing like nobody's business. Check out "Worm Emperor" or the title track. The writing is sometimes reminiscent of some of Willem Breuker's pieces, but Salo isn't copying anyone either compositionally or as a group of players. Sundial Lotus is a great album and a very impressive debut. ~ Sean Westergaard