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Manu Katche: Play As You Are

Ian Patterson By

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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 album—that 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 2005—an 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.

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