Longtime Garbarek drummer Manu Katche releases his first solo record for ECM...
Martin Longley 2005
Katche's early reputation was forged as a pop drummer with Sting and Peter Gabriel, but this Frenchman was also playing with saxophonist Jan Garbarek as long ago as 1989. This is his first solo recording for the ECM label, and Katche has managed the impressive feat of enticing the Norwegian Garbarek and Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko into being his horn front-line. The remaining quintet members are the much younger Marcin Wasilewski (piano) and Slawomir Kurkiewicz (bass), who have been gradually growing in reputation as sidemen to Stanko.
Katche has written all of the compositions, but his pieces certainly don't reveal a dominant personality. The themes are usually minimal, developing in a steady, linear fashion. The rhythmic pulse is always of central importance, with the horns gently repeating a basic phrase whilst Wasilewski displays a tendency towards cocktail lounge ruffles, his solos much softer than is the case with his usual work in Stanko's quartet.
Katche is not attempting anything approaching rhythmic complexity, never having had much taste for the outer reaches of jazz experimentation. He's intent on building restrained patterns that maintain a level head. This needn't necessarily be a bland concept, but so many of the numbers on this album are taken at a graceful, coasting pace, a tendency that forces the listener to yearn for an occasional outbreak of speed and hyperactivity.
A couple of the tracks do increase the heartrate, but these are still hampered by a predilection for stiff-limbed funk, exemplified by "Take Off And Land". The Davis quotes on "Miles Away" are too obvious, and "November 99" is not the most arresting opener, but Garbarek's soloing on "Number One" does succeed in raising the hackles. Stanko is crisply mellow, and Garbarek concentrates on tenor throughout, with a range that's much higher than that favoured by most players of that horn. The emotional mood is one of uncomplicated optimism: there are no dark avenues here...
Katche has dedicated this entire album to the memory of pianist Michel Petrucciani, not a player noted for his introverted qualities. Perhaps these compositions would have benefited from a more direct association with the essence of Petrucciani's own overspilling technique.