The art of making music that engages both the head and the heart is evidently not hard to pull off, but can be potentially self-defeating. But Manu Katché's exuberant and playful albums set new standards for brainy, soulful, and funky jazz, by blending his strengths as a composer and instrumentalist. His work as a drummer/composer/bandleader, much of it for ECM, shows Katché at his creative peak, stretching his capabilities to dizzying heights.
The Third Round is the next step upwards on Katché's creative ladder, a release of the highest order that combines moments of supreme beauty with the drummer's keen musical intelligence. With each successive record, Katché changes personnel, this time joined by saxophonist Tore Brunborg
, and, finally, unleashing his secret weapon, bassist Pino Palladino. Katché and Palladino have played on numerous sessions, as well as Katché's first solo album, It's About Time (BMG France, 1991), and they possess a rare, almost telepathic musical kinship.
Dialogue in jazzor any other musicis an essential, but Katché balances it optimally here, where empathetic encounters are built upon the basis of his quartet's s chemistry. The combination of excitement, texture and melody, individual personality, and group simpatico makes Third Round stand out. Full of fragile beauty, the opening "Swing Piece" and "Keep on Trippin'" demonstrate an unhurried pace, with the musicians' antennas fully tune to the same wavelength. Brunborg, who plays the role of a colorist-in-action with his playful and wistful saxophone, shows a broad tonal range; on the lilting and joyful "Being Ben," Katché adds delightful colors and drive, while Brunborg resonates in layers over top.
But Katché is always the center of attentionsetting the pace, driving the dynamics, and establishing the mood. He is a painter who generates understated, deceptively simple grooves, shaded with various flows and colorful treatments. The quiet, mid-paced "Springtime Dancing" is a perfect example of the broad palette of his playing. Katché's bond with Palladino is apparent throughout the disc, the bassist lending a special kind of support and foundation with his purring bass lines.Trumpeter Kami Lyle, who also sings on the beautiful ballad "Stay With You," is something of a novelty on a tune that is simultaneously tender and resilient.
Third Round is full, resonant and rich in details that are typical of the ECM style; the musicians subtly commenting on and amplifying one another's nuances. These elements, combined with brilliant musicianship and Katché's compositions, provide the sort of magic that leads to repeated listening.
Track Listing: Swing Piece; Keep on Trippin'; Senses; Being Ben; Une larme dans ton sourire; Springtime Dancing; Out Take Number 9; Shine and Blue; Stay With You; Flower Skin; Urban Shadow.
Personnel: Manu Katché: drums; Tore Brunborg: saxophones; Jason Rebello: piano, Fender Rhodes; Pino Palladino: bass; Jacob Young: guitars (2, 6, 10, 11); Kami Lyle: vocal (9), trumpet (9, 10).