For the past two decades, in-demand session drummer Manu Katche has been too busy on recordings for the likes of Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman and Dire Straits to record his own material.Now, on his second release under his own name, he has produced a work with little pop feeling at all — instead, he has created an elegant, assured work of European jazz.
The band is phenomenal. Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko (both with their own ECM discographies) swirl up sonorous and poetic melodies. Katche’s constantly percolating rhythms create an intriguing counterpoint to Garbarek’s and Stanko’s breathy, chamber-jazz tones; each embellishes the other. The robust bass lines and neatly placed harmonies of piano and bass, brought along from Stanko’s quartet, also mesh perfectly with Katche’s diverse beats.
At times sleekly minimalist — as on “Lullabye” and the aptly titled “No Rush”– and at other times urbanely agile — as on “November 99” — Katche clearly has a complex range of techniques. Every one of the sophisticated compositions is his own, so he must have been hard at work in the dressing room during all those pop tours.