Here’s one that taps me right in my jazz-loving spot, and is probably a bit far over the jazz border for me to review. But if your instrumental-music appreciation runs to small, guitar-fronted combos, Things Left Unsaid from Samurau is something you need to hear. Guitarist Michele Sanna, bassist Matteo Muntoni, and drummer Alessandro Garau lay down eight catchy tracks that range from quietly thoughtful to vibrantly energetic, and keep it absolutely engaging the whole time. Sanna is a guitar chameleon, taking his tunes from the silky glide of classic jazz to sparking, dirty blues riffs in a snap—and he nails both sides of the equation. Take “Killer Wave,” for instance. Its front end is dressed for cocktail hour, coming in as a gentle melody full of softly swept chords and dexterous note-picking. About halfway through, there’s a half-step toward blues and the guitar gets a little more smoky. At the end, Sanna plays with cutouts to flash us messages in gritty Morse Code. And the changeover makes total sense. I must say that I really enjoy when Sanna gets his blues on. “Freezing Frog/Strange Blues” makes me wait for it, opening with what almost feels like an improv in a funky time signature, all three players working off each other around the central motif. Each pass is punctuated with thick low-end notes. The combo moves through a slow, quiet passage and the guitar starts to speak in blues tongues. Muntoni helps lead the way by walking his bass down and Sanna picks up from there. And, man, the first raw licks of pure blues give me chills. Any jazz fan knows that the rhythm section is the backbone of a small combo, and Muntoni and Garau do exactly what they are supposed to do: lay down the bedrock and keep it solid. Muntoni’s opening riff on “Things Left Unsaid” sets a great tone, slow and walking and ready for Sanna’s tremolo-washed guitar. This track features floating, flying, smooth-jazz sax from Gavino Murgia. It’s a joyful noise, bright and sharp and breathtaking. It’s particularly effective since it’s the only spot on the album that’s not just two guitar and drums. There are songs here that don’t need to switch tone to be enjoyable, of course. “Dangerous Squares” is just a solid block of small-combo work, with Sanna running his jazz scales in crisp, hollow-body tones. A great sense of fun runs through it, the feeling that the trio are just digging the moment. “Sevilla” is a casual samba as sweet as a rum punch. I like Garau’s fills here as he finds small spots to pop in a little flair to match Sanna’s playful up-and-down-the-neck leads.
So Things Left Unsaid is a jazz album. It’s a good jazz album. It’s 45 minutes of feeling good and dropping into a groove—an expertly played groove. So, yes, it may be over the border of what I normally cover here at Hypnagogue Review. But if this kind of music is waiting for me over the border, I’m keeping my passport handy and I’m taking this trip often. Grab this one soon. It’s a pure pleasure.
Available from La Bel.