Salmon is a Jumpin’
John SALMON (b.1955)
Small Diamond [2:59]
Imitation Rock [4 :08]
Purcell’s Lament [6:46]
Scatitude [2:16]
Mari Pino [5:08]
Mambo Madness [3:55]
Des Abends [3:16]
Bossa Bachiana [4:12]
Fughetta on ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?’ [3:53]
Blue Noon [3:21]
Congo [5:04]
Hugh C.C. SALMON (1883-1970)
Child’s Evening Prayer [5:05]
Very Larry [1:08]
Salmon Is A Jumpin’ [2:13]
John Salmon (piano)
rec. September-November 2009, Organ Hall, School of Music, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA
ALBANY TROY1224 [53:30]
Including this disc in the classical review section of this site may seem a bit odd, and this disc could have been categorised with the jazz releases with as much ease and perhaps even more appropriately. This is not the entire story with this recording however, and since there’s plenty of jazz which has been assimilated into the ‘classical’ genre and innumerable composers who integrate elements of jazz into their ‘classical’ work, readers can make up their own minds as to whether this recording should go next to their Scott Joplin or their George Gershwin.
John Salmon is a highly versatile pianist, and he has been known to perform both Beethoven and Dave Brubeck in the same concert programme. His association with Dave Brubeck has borne musical fruit in recordings as well (see reviews here and here), and he has been awarded a fellowship from the Beethoven Foundation/American Pianists Association, won prizes such as the 1979 William Kapell and 1984 Busoni competitions, and holds Masters and Doctorate diplomas. The mixture of classical and jazz results in a fusion of complex counterpoint and swinging rhythms in potent numbers such as Imitation Rock in which he plays a duet with his pre-recorded self, and the Fughetta on ‘Brother, Can You Spare Dime’. Think of Alec Templeton’s ‘Bach Goes to Town’ with extra zip and you might have some idea of what to expect - jazz with a high degree of intelligence and an intensely witty use of antiquated but still highly relevant compositional techniques. The miniature Very Larry for instance is described as a ‘semi-bitonal blues’: there are hardly any pieces here without some intellectual tease going on.
There are further nods to composers of the past with Purcell’s Lament moving over a descending bass similar to “Dido’s Lament” but moving via some superb right-hand extemporisation into an unexpected but entirely ‘right’ feeling salsa section. Bossa Bachiana is a combination of a Bach-style chorale and a bossa nova, drawing together associations with Villa-Lobos, with Jacques Loussier and with MJQ. Another chorale-like composition comes from John Salmon’s paternal grandfather Hugh Cameron Campbell Salmon, whose Child’s Evening Prayer is a simple but movingly beautiful little piece not too far removed from something lyrical by Grieg. John Salmon compares his style to Edward MacDowell. Another more ‘classical’ or serious piece is Des Abends, but the two could hardly be more different, the latter starting out with a tonally ambiguous nocturnal atmosphere, adding in wild Conlon Nancarrow runs, moving through a ‘Rite of Spring’ ostinato, and referring briefly to Schumann’s Op.12 Fantasiestücke, whence the title derives.
Further highlights include Mari Pino, a delightfully relaxed stride number honouring the performer/composer’s wife, and Mambo Madness which flies through the air in a 7/4 meter for which attempts to dance are advised against. Scatitude also rolls with a compelling 5/4 meter, the same beat as Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ but entirely different in terms of “scat, etude and attitude”. This nicely balanced and varied programme ends with the title track, Salmon Is A Jumpin’ which the composer states “would have been grammatically incorrect if referring to the fish. But, as an autobiographical comment, it is correct.” Whatever the linguistics it’s a rollicking good number with which to end the disc.
With good sonics, excellent music and superb playing this disc is self-recommending. The only real question is; how much do you think you like jazz? I’m looking for converts so take a taster at Youtube and climb aboard.
Dominy Clements
Good sonics, excellent music and superb playing.