Neighborhood, Manu Katché's ECM debut, is full of wonders. The drummer is joined by his old comrade Jan Garbarek (saxophone) and Tomasz Stanko (trumpet), as well as Marcin Wasilewski (piano) and Slawomir Kurkiewicz (bass), who are part of Stanko's quartet. The band creates music full of small epiphanies and the seductive warmth that is typical of the works of Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett. It is no surprise that Katché really knows his trade, since for the last 25 years he has been an in-demand drummer for people like Gabriel, Sting and Jan Garbarek, to name but a few. His apparently simple and nonpretentious playing has earned him respect as one of the best drummers in the world.
Instead of dwelling in experimental and abstract fusion territories, Katché delivers a straightforward jazz album in Neighbourhood. His ten original compositions are remarkable for their freshness, lyricism and elegance. Even though the drummer is the bandleader, there is no sign of him dominating or suffocating the music. His propulsive and unobtrusive drumming (in odd time signatures) adds a different feel to each composition, giving this music its quiet fire. The compositions are minimalistic and Katché takes his time as the story unfolds slowly and subtly.
The band members seem to be inspired and they engage in some colorful and at times spacey interplays. Garbarek and the versatile Stanko have their spots like "Number One," "Take Off & Land" and "Lovely Walk," where they provide nice solos. "Take Off & Land" is the funkiest track, with brass lines buoyed by danceable beats. Wasilewski offers a mysterious take on the piano, which can function in just about any style, with a wide range of textures and tones. Together with Kurkiewicz, he provides sensitive support.
All these artists make sure Neighbourhood is full of other lovely moments like "February Sun," "No Rush" and "Lullaby." These are all slow tunes, but Katché's fills are exciting and help prevent them from seeming too long. Without a miss, the grooves on Neighborhood are infectious, but more than that, the compositions are brilliantthus showing a different side of Manu Katché, as both composer and arrangerand many of his pieces deserve to become jazz standards.
November 99; Number One; Lullaby; Good Influence; February Sun; No Rush; Lovely Walk; Take Off & Land; Miles Away; Rose.
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