Sameka: Introducing Sameka

German quintet led by Pastorian bassist is rooted chiefly in the motoring rhythms of jazz-rock and funk but can also be tender and melodic

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In November 2021 the young German quintet that is Sameka were awarded a scholarship prize which enabled then to record this, their debut album. The band is led by Simon Zauels, a fine post-Pastorius bassist who composed all the material apart from the opening electro-funk classic Actual Proof from Herbie Hancock’s Thrust of 1974.

Sameka’s take on Proof features a refreshing use of grand piano. Matters of sound-colour and dynamics – hear the leavenous contributions from the oud of guest Hesham Hamra or the Weather Report-like “ abstract soundscape” which opens Dark Horse – are crucial to music open to matters of tenderness and melody, even if what is on offer here is rooted chiefly in motoric rhythms drawn from jazz-rock and funk – and often as densely cross-rhythmic and complex as they are purposive.

If Amoniti has rock figures which are heavy to the point of head-banging and Turtur employs all kinds of exhilarating rhythmic muscle and detail, the title track features an especially satisfying mix of the weighty and the delicate. The spare lyricism of the opening piano phrases elicits clipped melodic colour from Hamra and some subsequent brief but full-on baritone from Daniel Buch before the lovely opening mood returns. Buch’s soprano flies on the aptly titled Oriental Dance, sometimes in tandem with Hamra, whose lucid lines are underpinned by strong chordal accents from Spranger.

The last two pieces epitomise the considered modulation – of rhythmic accent, dynamics and emotional projection – which marks the music. Sample the melodicism of Zauek and Baumann (elg) on The Bog, projected over some typically forthright figures from Frohnhofer (d). Dark Horse has both urgent riffing and affecting passages of melodic reflection, with the eventual interplay of Buch’s soprano and Spranger’s piano summoning some delicious, spaciously weighted work from Zauels and Fronhofer.

An impressive debut, indeed.

Discography
Actual Proof; Amoniti; (2) Sameka; Oriental Dance; (1) The Bog; A Dark Horse; Turtur (43.38)
(1) Simon Zauels (elb); Patrick Baumann (elg); Daniel Buch (bar, ss, aerophone); Antoine Spranger (p); Tobias Frohnhofer ( d). (2) as (1) plus Hesham Hamra (oud). Germany, 2021/22.
Mons Records MR874735