Review

SAM (SLICK ALEXIUS MENNIGMANN) Yet Another Life

EP · 2013 · Jazz Related Rock
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3.5/5 ·
snobb
The use of the Chapman Stick in fusion and rock-jazz has deep roots: from the outset, former Weather Report bassist Alphonso Johnson participated in introducing the new instrument to the public. In the early 80s, bassist Tony Levin made a real revolution changing the sound of one of progressive rock's inventors, King Crimson, using the Chapman Stick for KC's first album of their fourth re-incarnation, "Discipline", and some following albums too. In fact, "Discipline" became the start where the Stick's popularity in progressive rock started growing dramatically. During the last three decades, the King Crimson side projects and works of KC-related musicians formed a specific Chapman Stick music culture in progressive instrumental music.

German multi-instrumentalist, Marc Mennigmann, started his music career as a jazz piano player, but switched to the Chapman Stick as his main instrument in the 90s. SAM is Marc's new project with German guitarist Peter Alexius and American bassist Julie Slick. In the case of this new trio, Julie is the link connecting SAM with the progressive Chapman Stick "King Crimson tradition" as she is also a member of KC guitarist Adrian Belew's Power Trio, plus you can hear KC members Pat Mastelotto and Robert Fripp on Julie's debut solo album.

So when the new trio SAM (with guest drummer Sven Kosakowski and second guitarist Zaki Kiokakis) released their debut, it was obvious what kind of music you would expect to find there. To be fully correct, SAM released two works at the same time - the 35 minute long EP "Yet Another Life", and the full double CD album "Another Life". When I received both releases from Marc, I naturally started listening to the album first, but later decided that the EP is a better place to start for any newcomer.

From the very first seconds you are under low frequency attack here - rich overdriven bass sounds and stick/guitars soloing around both, drive melodies and grooves ahead as if their lives depend on it. Being 100% improvised, the music is surprisingly tuneful and structured. It's not just jamming, or only calculated KonstruKtions - but something in between. If Julie's bass is more a rock instrument here, Marc's Stick is a real improvisational one. Being more in the style of Gordian Knot than the Tony Levin band, this music could be placed somewhere on the heavy end of the improvisational rock shelf.

First - by mistake - I started listening to the MP3 version of the EP, but after switching to FLAC I realized the full bass sound power and richness here. If you enjoy Cynic or Liquid Tension Experiment, you most probably will like this small album as well. And - the trio's full album (31 tracks, 160 minutes of music!) is quite a different beast, so you can hear a different side of SAM on this release as well.
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