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Interviews

Manu Katché: The Colors I See

By Published: September 7, 2013
AAJ: Does the question "What is jazz?" still make sense to you?

MK: "Jazz" is a word. It is not what's inside it. The word has become a little bit of a cliché, because it makes you think of the forties, the bebop, and then the hard bop, when they started improvising. When you mention "rock" you think of rebellion, because rock also had a strong social component. Jazz was never involved in politics. Since the fall of the Berlin wall in '89, the Eastern countries have come up with their own cultures, be it classical or pop music, and it all grew into jazz. Then we had electronic music and the hip hop. I think that these days jazz should be called "rock" because it is very evolutive. Rock is just like a kind of statement; nothing much has happened there after Nirvana. But if you listen to jazz from the eighties up to today, there is a huge development and diversity there. For me, what we call jazz is the new rock. The age group has changed too; we get more and more young people coming in. At a concert a few days ago in France, we had a lot of people in the audience who were 17 or 18. They listen to the music and they mix it with electronics and the daft punk, which they are doing these days. Jazz is a lot more than what we think when we pronounce the term.

AAJ: You have played with a large variety of artists. Is there a criterion upon which you chose your musical environment?

MK: The only criterion that works there is the music itself. If I like what I hear, I work with the people even if I don't know them. It is funny because when I started working with Peter Gabriel, I had listened to Genesis
Genesis
Genesis

band/orchestra
and I liked it, and from then on he recommended me. The same happened with Sting, Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
b.1943
vocalist
, Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck
b.1944
guitar
, Tracy Chapman. But it doesn't really matter if I know the music already or not. Send the music to me, and if I like it, let's go!

AAJ: Do you call the people you want to play with?

MK: No, I have never done that. I trust destiny here [laughs]. If it has to happen, it will, you don't have to push it. I had been, and still am, a big fan of Sting and of Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
, and I eventually came to play with them. So, when it has to happen, it does. I think it is a good way of doing it instead of pushing yourself on people.

AAJ: Did you refuse anyone?

MK: Actually, I did, and there were good reasons for that. I wrote about it in my book.

AAJ: What dimension does Nils Petter Molvaer
Nils Petter Molvaer
Nils Petter Molvaer
b.1960
trumpet
add to your new record?

MK: Nils Petter Molvaer is an amazing musician. I met him in Montreal three years ago, and we played together with Paolo Fresu
Paolo Fresu
Paolo Fresu
b.1961
trumpet
. We tried things for a day, improvising and putting in loops. It worked OK. Then, we did that again in France, and it was just beautiful. After that, we decided to do a record. When I write the music for a record, I have to think about the people who are going to play. I met Jimmy Watson
Jimmy Watson
b.1922
first, and of course, Tore Brunborg
Tore Brunborg
Tore Brunborg
b.1960
saxophone
had been around the first time [on Third Round (ECM, 2010)]. As I wrote the record, I had them constantly in my mind. We cut the album within two days, but we could have gone on with it for months. What Nils Petter brought to it was his unique texture of sound, that special ambience. His sound is rich and very special.

AAJ: Has France opened to jazz enormously during the last decade?

MK: Yes, it is true; we have hundreds of festivals there. That is probably related to what I have just said about jazz. More and more young people get attracted to this kind of music. There are a lot of Europeans playing at these festivals, too. There is an amazing lot of good European musicians out there. The other thing is, I think, we are getting the atmosphere of the seventies back, and people are starting to go to jazz concerts again. Just think about it, Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
, Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
b.1944
drums
, Weather Report
Weather Report
Weather Report

band/orchestra
, Mahavishnu Orchestra
Mahavishnu Orchestra
Mahavishnu Orchestra
b.1971
band/orchestra
were playing for thousands back in those days. Afterwards the interest for instrumental music sort of diminishes, and now it is coming back again. It is connected with a lot of freedom, and I guess people like that. Germany is a good scene for jazz too.

AAJ: What are you doing next?

MK: I am touring with the new album up to February, and in the middle of that, I will play with Peter Gabriel for the anniversary of the So album in October. I will also release my book in October. It is a book with stories about the people I met, with the title Road Book. It was good fun to write it and I hope people will enjoy it. I've been doing a few studio albums, but never a live one, so I've got a few ideas there. I may be doing a live album in 2014. It will be a blu-ray.

Selected Discography

Manu Katché, Manu Katché (ECM, 2012)

Manu Katché, Third Round (ECM, 2010)

Manu Katché, Playground (ECM, 2007)

Manu Katché, Neighbourhood (ECM, 2005)

Jan Garbarek, In Praise of Dreams (ECM, 2003)

Sting, All This Time (A&M, 2001)

Manu Katché, It's About Time (BMG, 1992)

Sting, The Soul Cages (A&M, 1991)

Peter Gabriel, Passion (Real World, 1989)

Peter Gabriel, So (Geffen, 1985)

Photo Credit

Gildas Bolcé, Courtesy of ECM Records


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