Drummer Manu Katché's career has been a long, circuitous one that began in rock, working for an extended period with Peter Gabriel, Sting and Joni Mitchell. In the cases of Sting and Mitchell, there was a jazz sensibility present in much of their work. Simultaneously, Katché's work on the ECM label was taking shape as he appeared on a number of Jan Garbarek albums. The drummer's own ECM leader debut, Neighbourhood (2005), was well received and the first of a successful string of four releases while on that label. With Unstatic, Katché gives us a mostly understated original collection encompassing a number of world styles.
Unstatic features a core quintet and guests. Katché's long-time associate, saxophonist Tore Brunborg is joined by Italian trumpeter Luca Aquino. The two had played together on Katché's Live in Concert (ACT Music Vision, 2015) along with pianist Jimmy Watson who adds Fender Rhodes on this collection. A relative newcomer, Norwegian Ellen Andrea Wang plays the upright bassist and adds a bit of vocalizing and trombonist Nils Landgren joins in on five of the eleven tracks.
All of the compositions on Unstatic were written by Katché and they cover a lot of territory. Opening with "Introducciṓn"and later with "Flame&Co"Katché shows his Latin chops with bossa nova and samba flavors. On the latter of the two, Katché shows some real force along with a powerful saxophone solo. Bookmarked by those pieces is the title track, featuring appetizing solos from Watson and Brunborg. "City" is overtly funky while being laced with an old-world European refrain. Watson and Brunborg add their luster again on "Ride Me Up," an R&B/blues piece that morphs into funk. Wang gets her chance to shine on "Number 11."
Perhaps the indelible memory of the all-star Neighbourhood with Jan Garbarek, Tomasz Stanko and Marcin Wasilewski pigeon-holed the drummer and set too narrow an expectation as one of "the" drummers of the new millennium. This album is more a demonstration of Katché's diverse compositional skills than his eminent talents as a percussionist. In that regard, his role here may seem more conventional that in his early days, but Unstatic should be viewed more holistically as the actor steps behind the camera and directs a quality work without ego.
Introduction; Unstatic; Flame&co; City; Blossom; Daze Days; Rolling; Ride Me Up; Trickle; Out Of Sight; Number 11.
Manu Katche: drums, vocals; Ellen Andrea Wang: upright bass, vocals; Jim (James) Watson: acoustic piano, keyboards; Tore Brunborg: saxophones; Luca Aquino: trumpet; Nils Landgren: trombone (1, 2, 7, 11); Abraham Rodriguez Mansfarroll: percussion (1); Joel Hierrezuelo Balart: percussion (1); Inor Esteban Sotolongo: percussion (1).