John Salmon Plays Salmon Is A Jumpin’
John Salmon Plays Salmon Is A Jumpin’
“The swinging opener, ‘Small Diamond,’ shows the influence of Brubeck (without being a carbon copy of the jazz master’s style), incorporating a lively fugue. His bittersweet, moving ballad ‘Purcell’s Lament’ was inspired in part by an opera aria, though it adds an interesting twist with a lively salsa in the midst of the piece. One could easily imagine a scat singer conjuring a lyric to go with Salmon’s brilliant, inventive ‘Scatitude,’ a buoyant work that is full of joy. The wild miniature blues ‘Very Larry’ is full of sudden twists, while the showy blues ‘Salmon Is A Jumpin’’ sounds like a perfect set closer. Those who have heard John Salmon’s earlier CDs [of Brubeck and Kapustin] will be delighted with Salmon Is A Jumpin’, while other fans of both classical music and jazz need to investigate his entertaining music.”
“I was extremely impressed with Salmon’s virtuosity, the variety of musical styles, and the fact that he chose to accompany himself on all fourteen selections. What I was most impressed with, however, was Salmon’s sense of feel and rhythmic comprehension which allow him to move easily from Latin to a straight ahead walk. His knowledge and appreciation of America’s jazz idiom is obvious, and his ability to improvise is not limited to a single style. He has ‘big ears’ as we say in jazz, and he moves easily through some rather difficult material. He utilizes a broad range of expression and dynamic sensitivity, moving effortlessly from a tender passage to a full-blown rage. I applaud the performance and the work, and I highly recommend it as a new addition to your listening library.”
“Poached salmon, roasted salmon, salmon cakes, salmon Wellington, whatever your taste, it's all on the menu and served up nicely on this new Albany release.
A versatile pianist and composer, who has toured the world's stages performing classical music and has released a handful of CDs on the Naxos label, John Salmon is also an accomplished jazz musician and composer, this recording providing enough evidence to establish his reputation as a strong and imaginative writer in that genre.
His classical training and background lurk in the shadows behind most of the pieces gathered together on this CD, a striking example of which is Small Diamond that starts off like a Bach fugue but then quickly develops into a Jacques Loussier influenced jazz improvisation. Another trademark classical giveaway is the perfect balance of forces between the two hands, with the right melodic hand always leading the way, and the left providing harmonic support. Purcell's Lament combines a line from that composer's music with a deeply felt blues delivery and bursts of wild salsa rhythms, with the bluesy lament having the final word… The title track, Salmon Is A Jumpin’, with its walking bass line and overdubbed second piano part (also played by John Salmon), combines all the best of his skills and settles into an infectious groove that will get you toe-tapping.
The clean and bright Albany recording, done in the Organ Hall of the University of North Carolina, is perfect for this kind of highly articulated music, with each part clearly defined.”
“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.”
John Salmon presents a creative and imaginative mixture of jazz and classical piano. In the spirit of Bill Evans, Salmon courageously improvises over sections of tunes, but, unlike Evans, he also composes jazz counterpoint (“Fughetta on ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?’”). Salmon also establishes himself as a first-rate composer, and his jazz playing is influenced by Erroll Garner (“Mari Pino”), Dave Brubeck (“Blue Noon”), and Thelonious Monk (“Very Larry”). A refreshing surprise that makes this recording unique is Salmon’s crafty use of overdubbing that creates two-piano arrangements of most of his compositions but still keeps the texture sparse. One is only vaguely aware (as in “Congo”) that there are two pianos instead of one—impressive considering that each track needs to be recorded separately. This “Third Stream” CD is a wonderful collection for jazz and classical enthusiasts alike.
Salmon Is a Jumpin” is a collection of piano solos performed and, with two exceptions, composed by John Salmon. Salmon is at home in the jazz and classical worlds, and that shows in these works. They are fundamentally jazz pieces, but they are infused with classical music of the past and present, and Salmon’s technique is certainly up to the task of performing these often demanding works with verve. One hears “recollections” of Bach, Purcell, Villa-Lobos, and even George Crumb and Henry Cowell in some of these works. Also on the program is a “Fughetta on Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” and a short lullaby composed by Salmon’s grandfather.
American Record Guide