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A celebrated session drummer and solo artist, Manu Katche's infamous method of crafting a backbeat may parallel the lyrical, dancelike aura for which late jazz drummer Paul Motian was noted. However, Katche's jazz roots are largely evident via his small group formats for ECM Records. On this self-titled release comprised of a multinational quartet, rock-solid pulses, richly melodic content and resounding storylines exquisitely coalesce. But the differentiator lies within Katche's enthralling compositions, sheened by the breathy, wide-open ECM soundscape aura. Highlighted with asymmetrical parts of brawn, finesse, and capaciously executed motifs, the band casts an ethereal spell, but offsets the melodies with succinct grooves, spiraling choruses and hearty improvisational sprees.
The title of "Bliss," establishes a preconceived framework for the music. Here, the quartet yields an aural painting underscored by Katche's regimented and largely unwavering tom patterns. He establishes a metronomic pulse for Jimmy Watson's low-key Hammond B3 voicings beneath the hornists' vocal-like choruses. Think of gently rolling hills amid a sultry climate as the band spawns warm waves of sound. However, trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer's dark, electronically tinged lines impart a rather trippy perimeter, as the quartet's subtle nuances and divergent stance are exploited by Watson's jazzy phrasings, the music venturing into a ghostly apparition, sparked with power and harmonically attractive sound-sculptures.
Personnel: Jim Watson: piano, Hammond B3 organ; Nils Petter Molvær: trumpet, loops; Tore Brunborg: tenor and soprano saxophones; Manu Katché: drums.