Manu Katche: Play As You Are
Manu Katché is one of the most original drummers anywhere, defying categorization and straddling musical genres with ease and flair. A French national of Ivorian background, he has turned his hand to pop, rock, fusion and jazz, and his exposure to all these elements, plus his classical training, is indelibly stamped in a playing style all his own.
For over 20 years, Katché has toured and recorded with such iconic figures as Sting and Peter Gabriel, bringing his highly distinctive time keeping to their music and touring all over the world. As a sideman, he has recorded with an impressive array of musicians and songwriters and has played on Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek's recordings for nearly two decades.
It was his drumming on ex-The Band guitarist Robbie Robertson's "Somewhere Down the Lazy River"from his eponymous 1987 Geffen albumthat first caught the attention of ECM producer Manfred Eicher, beginning a long association with the legendary German record label. Still, Katché didn't record as a leader for the label until 2005an 11-year hiatus following the release of Stick Around (Zildjian, 1994). Neighbourhood (ECM, 2005) was met with considerable critical and popular acclaim, followed two years later by Playground (ECM, 2007).
Katché is currently touring to promote his third release on ECM, the appropriately titled Third Round (2010). The music on all three ECM discs is highly melodious and gently lyrical, combining the brevity of pop tunes in the writing, with a stripped-down jazz approach to the playing. It is music that is fresh, accessible and groove-based.
With a new lineup of musicians, Third Round offers subtle textural contrasts to Katché's previous ECM recordings without straying too far from a style that Katché is refining and honing into a highly personal and distinctive sound.
The host of a highly successful TV music show in France, as well as a weekly radio show, Katché has limited time to appear as a sideman these days, though after 20 years of playing for other people, Katché is stepping forward with sure feet (and hands) as a leader in his own right.
All About Jazz: Can you tell us how much work went into this recording, because it's something that many people rarely think about.
Manu Katché: Of course it's a lot of work when you write music, but I write music all year 'round. I write on the piano and then I put a demo on the computer. I print out the charts and I send everything to everyone. The principal work was getting what I wanted sound-wise. I really had in mind Pino [Palladino] and Jason [Rebello] and Tore [Brunborg] and Kami [Lyle] to form the sound. Finally, when we recorded, it took three days. It was very intense because we started at ten in the morning and finished around ten at night. We weren't trying to change the structure; we were trying to get the right attitude, the right approach and the right sound.
Manfred Eicher is very good as a producer in the old-school way; he lets you play around and then he says, "Okay I think you're reaching something. Keep on doing this; forget about that," and after a while he'll get us to do a take. It was a lot of work to find the right approach between ourselves. It was challenging to get as good as we could. I think when you listen to the album, it's more or less a continuation of what I've done before, but I really wanted to sound a little bit different so I used electric bass and a little bit of Fender Rhodes. I wrote most of the themes for soprano saxophone and I asked Tore to try and find different elements and approach to what I'd done before.
AAJ: There is quite a similarity in sound between Third Round and your previous two CDs as leader on ECM, but also some notable differences, and I wonder if the title signifies a trilogy in compositional terms and maybe the end of a cycle at the same time?
MK: I think when I did this album, I had in mind to be a little bit more myself on the drums, which doesn't mean that before I wasn'tjust that instead of doing the punctuation, the syntax, I wanted to try and put more into it. I would say that it's definitely a little bit of a different approach. Before, we were a quintet and I'm very happy how we sound as a quartet. It gives space, and when you use electric instruments, you can use sustain more than with acoustic instruments. That's maybe what makes you think it's a bit different and the end of a way of composing for ECM, but I don't think so; I think it's very me sound wise.
You know, I've been doing a lot of rock music for a long time, and when I started the ECM project I just concentrated on going for the emotion and sensitivity without any effects. I'm not saying it's not the case on this one, but now I think I'm gradually bringing my knowledge from the rock music industry and my way of approaching the music into the music I make with ECM.