In the spotlights #3: Guy Salamon

20 April 2020

No less than 4 groups from the Netherlands were announced for the European Jazz Meeting during jazzahead! in Bremen on April 24th. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the influential jazz music fair will skip 2020. It is a big blow for a lot of artists and professionals who planned on doing business there. InJazz and Dutch Performing Arts were ready to host the Dutch umbrella stand at jazzahead! as usual. Instead, we will share online interviews with them.

“The power is in the togetherness”
After a jaw-dropping performance in Rotterdam’s LantarenVenster during inJazz 2019, the group of Israel-born Guy Salamon has been on a roll. Only to be stopped brutally in its tracks by the current crisis. We reached out to Guy to look back a bit and to check how he is dealing with the situation.

Your website says: “Guy Salamon doesn’t have any upcoming shows.” An obvious but sad statement. Can you go back in time a little bit and tell us what bookings you were looking at before covid-19 happened?
“My band and I, the Guy Salamon Group, we’ve just released our debut album ‘Unfollow The Leader’ very recently. We had an European tour planned, starting now, basically. The first stop would have been the jazzahead! showcase in Bremen, followed by concerts at Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival and Prevenza Jazz Festival in Greece and Südtirol Jazzfestival Alto Adige in Italy. In the Netherlands we were supposed to play at BIMHUIS in Amsterdam, De Pletterij in Haarlem, It’s Time For Jazz in Zutphen, the Jazz Ship (North Sea Round Town) in Rotterdam the day after inJazz, plus a festival in Rotterdam. We still have a few nice festival shows planned for later this summer, but they are not publicly announced yet. So I cannot say anything at the moment and of course we don’t know if they will be able to take place eventually. We truly hope they will, but safety and health first of course.”

You performed successfully at inJazz 2019, which led to another showcase gig at FiraB! in Palma de Mallorca in October. At what point did jazzahead! come into the picture?
“Last year was the first time I have thought of applying for the jazzahead! showcase in Bremen. Maybe due to the upcoming release of our album and the place our band is in right now. It felt like it would be a good time to present our music over there. And it’s always fun to get to know new people and new audiences, so I decided to apply. I used music from the album, some videos from our recent live performances and pictures from a photoshoot we had for the album. Jazzahead! was definitely one of my top events on the list since it is such a major and special event. I was very happy and grateful to hear we were selected. I didn’t know exactly who else was applying but I spoke with some friends about it and got helpful reminders from them to not forget to do so in time, for which I am really grateful!”

Nice to know that you present yourself with more than just a recording.
“In general, I collect new, fun material of the band whenever there’s the opportunity. A nice live gig, a studio session, et cetera. By doing so, I can use it for applications and online purposes. My main focus with my band is to constantly grow musically as a group and to have as many fun experiences together as we can and to share these moments with the public. However, since we don’t really have a label and such, I must keep track of all the suitable events myself. You know, festivals, musical events and showcases – and try and get us booked.”

What role does your album release play in all this?
“The album has a big role in the band’s development, no doubt. On a personal level it is really great fun and a very special experience to work on and release the album. It feels great to have all this music finally out as an album and it’s wonderful to share it with the world in that way. I learned a lot and grew a lot in this process. It helped us as a band to develop our sound and spirit and it had a positive effect on our career as well. It gave an even stronger drive and will to present the new album and perform live. It provided a clear structure and workflow for me as the band leader and it makes everything thematically clearer as far as what’s the band up to these days.”

And the PULL Quartet?
“PULL is another very dear band that I am involved in. We are a collective quartet featuring Alistair, Teis, Brodie and myself – all who are also band members of my own octet. We all write music for this band and actually it is the first band I co-founded since moving to Amsterdam. We have recorded our first album ‘Pull A String, A Puppet Moves’ in 2017 with Luomi Records and we will soon release our second album – also with Luomi Records. The PULL quartet has a very different vibe from the octet I think. And it brings out different musical sides of us, so I’m very happy to have both up and running.”

Your concerts have an extroverted, celebratory side to them which might be hard to capture in the recording studio. You must have played with the idea of releasing a live recording…
“Yes, for sure! We will release a live album at a certain point, we’re just not sure when. We always have a great time on stage and enjoy the liveliness and spontaneous energy that can come out only in a live setting, so it will be fun to capture that as well. I also do love the vibe we have when going into the studio together. So, we’ll do that again soon for sure. I have a few different ideas for what will come next with my band, but it’s all still top secret I’m afraid.”

What are you doing to keep yourself busy at this moment? Can you find inspiration in the crisis at all?
“Well, it goes up and down. It can be hard sometimes to find inspiration, so I am trying to be attentive to myself and take care of my inner rhythm now. I have a drum kit with me which is great and I am sitting quite a lot by the piano. Playing around with old Israeli children’s songs I grew up with, rearranging and messing around with them, which is also lots of fun. In addition, I listen to lots of albums I haven’t listened to in a long while, but remember to take it easy at times. Call my family and friends, cook, play a board game, watch a nice film. But of course, it is a very tough time for all of us and my heart goes out to all who are suffering in any way from this pandemic.”

You are a drummer and composer and a band leader and a side man. What else have you got up your sleeve?
“Uhmm, I don’t know… Some might say that I’m an ‘interesting’ dancer, mainly abstract and improv stuff… and 90’s pop stuff. But I definitely have no professional background, nor the skill or technique, but I do love dancing. I enjoy arranging music for large ensembles and I like writing music for film as well. I sure do love playing the piano, have been playing since I was a kid and it’s always been my safe place. Sadly, I don’t perform live on the piano often enough, hopefully will have the chance to do it more in the future.”

The Conservatorium of Amsterdam class of 2018/2019 seems to do rather well, don’t you think?
“Yeah, you could say that for sure. I was very lucky to have so many incredibly talented musicians studying at the same time as me at the conservatorium and it’s no surprise that so many of them are doing very well in the scene right now. It’s a mix of a few years, from graduates of 2017 to 2019 approximately. We’re all very good friends and we often play in each other’s bands. That factor helped a lot after graduation. The power is in the togetherness, I personally feel. Of course, all these guys have very special artistic voices of their own, but the collective effort makes it possible for all of us. It just happens to be that most Dutch bands selected to jazzahead! this year consist of close and dear friends of mine so that gives a very warm feeling.”

Unfollow The Leader by Guy Salamon is out now.
The Guy Salamon Group consists of:
Ian Cleaver (trumpet)
Alistair Payne (trumpet)
Jose Soares (alto sax)
Lucas Martinez (tenor sax)
Teis Semey (guitar)
Young-Woo Lee (piano)
Brodie Jarvie (bass)
Guy Salamon (drums, composition)

Read also:
In the spotlights #1: Rembrandt Frerichs
In the spotlights #2: Sun-Mi Hong
In the spotlights #4: KAMA Kollektiv