Following on from “Neighbourhood” and “Playground”, the latest installment of the music of Manu Katché on ECM. Recorded in the South of France in December 2009, this “Third Round” finds the French/African drummer enjoying the company of good friends. Once again Katché’s good-natured pieces – characterized by Guardian writer John Fordham as “beautifully mutated grooves and jazzy themes” – encourage inspired performances from the participants. But there is a difference of emphasis, as Katché calls upon the services of some long-term associates.
The feel and focus of the album, with its fully revised band line-up, revolves around the rhythmic understanding shared by Manu and bass guitarist Pino Palladino. As rhythm section partners, they have played together in sessions, projects and bands for around 25 years now and have a dynamic understanding that is special: they float around the beat together, play elastic pulses, divide up the groove between them, supercharge the soloists, while making the process seem effortless as breathing. Latterly, Palladino has been joining Katché for his Arte TV channel jam-music show, “One Shot Not”, in the course of which they have worked with the widest cast of artists across a broad range of music. As players barely heeding distinctions between ‘jazz’ and ‘pop’, they linger at the doorways between the idioms, or drift through them.
Also abetting the fluid rhythmic impetus of “Third Round” is British pianist Jason Rebello, heard on Steinway grand and Fender Rhodes and - like Paladino - making an ECM debut here. Rebello came into contact with Manu when both musicians were part of Sting’s band: they spent a couple of years on the road together. Contributing to the spontaneous, in-the-moment feel of the recording he has helped to bring out the implications of Manu’s melodies. “My music,” Katché explains “offers an atmosphere or a feeling that I want to present to the listener. But the players are not bound to the notes. They should use them as a guide.”
Manu Katché’s band, meanwhile one of the busiest on the touring circuit, has been obliged to adopt a revolving door policy for soloists, and a number of ECM players have passed through its ranks or guested with it over the last six years - including Jan Garbarek, Tomasz Stanko, Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, Mathias Eick and Trygve Seim. Tore Brunborg has been Katche’s saxophonist in recent seasons. He is prominently featured as soloist on “Third Round” – indeed the record was conceived, Katché explains, for a core quartet with Brunborg, Rebello, Palladino and himself, with guests added for specific sound colours and textures.
Guitarist Jakob Young joins the ensemble for three pieces on the album – “Keep On Trippin’”, “Springtime Dancing” and “Flower Skin”. There is a also a cameo appearance for singer/trumpeter Kami Lyle , on whose debut disc “Blue Cinderella” Katché drummed more than a decade ago. Lyle sings and plays trumpet on “Stay With You” and adds trumpet also to “Flower Skin”. Both Young and Lyle will augment the Katché group for selected concerts in the months ahead.