Welcome to the Neighbourhood
At the crossroads of classical, jazz, and pop music stands Parisian drummer Manu
Katché. Popularly known for his drum work for Peter Gabriel, Sting, and
Joni Mitchell, Katché now sits at the set in a jazz setting.
His Valentines Day release of Neighbourhood brings together three-fourths
of Polands Tomasz Stanko quartet and adds Katchés longtime
playing companion, Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek.
When you go for a session, you have to give yourself to the music and let
your brain and heart do the rest, he says. I am trying to play as
if I am discovering the music for the first time even though I composed it.
As both leader and composer, Katché did not write out indications for the
percussive role. Instead, he supplied beats and rhythmic interjections upon hearing
interpretations from his counterparts. In so doing, Katché said he was
a bit afraid he would end up falling back on gimmicks and licks - a fear that
he wouldnt be part of it. But clearly, this groups trenchant casting
process has paired instrumentalists that produce an organic sound. When
I saw their faces smiling and bodies moving behind the instruments, I was very
excited, eases Katché. I would say it sounds like a band.
When Katché met pianist Marcin Wasilewski, he brought in charts and demos.
Wasilewski diligently reorganized the voicings of all the chords with respect
for Katchés initial concepts to ultimately create a more intense
sound. So too, Stanko and Garbarek came together, playing melodies in tandem through
mellow and modal blends of trumpet and tenor saxophone.
Neighbourhood sounds distinctly European. Katché finds this to be the result
of Europes musicians making references to classical artists such as Prokofiev,
Ravel, and Debussy, whereas American jazz artists tend not to refer to as distant
a past. These artists shared cultural heritage allowed them to take centuries-old
references and apply them to tighten their union. They all learned Beethoven and
Mozart in school and had to listen to symphonic orchestras. In turn, Katché
says his bandmates are like his neighbors in a common harmonic community - one
that hinges not on bebop or hard bop, but centers on respecting the sound of each
instrument. In Europe, the way of playing what we call jazz is a mixture
of freedom with ones instrument and playing music, he says.
While Neighbourhood is supported by classical music, Katché confirms it
has contemporary ties. Its modern references include Miles Davis Kind of
Blue as subtly articulated on Miles Away, which takes the 6/8 time
signature of All Blues and alludes to it with new chords and tones.
Neighbourhood also carries the sensual sound of Herbie Hancocks Maiden Voyage.
Coming from a classical percussion background, Katché plays softly without
losing the cunning busyness that punctuates even the gentlest phrases.
With freedom comes intensity. This [music] is very much written away from
jazz so it is more difficult to get into the structure, explains Katché.
It is not AABA where you go off to solo and return back to the tune. It
is very written. The first two to three hours it was hard for us to get into the
length of the pieces. While the longer structures took some getting used
to, the thoughtful players adapted. They present improvisations that run effortlessly
over forms that were composed like pop songs with intros, verses, choruses, and
bridges in varying lengths and recapitulations.
Katché demonstrates his genre agnosticism further in his appearance on
Nouvelle Star, the French version of American Idol. Donning the nickname The
Professor, Katché critiques artists and aspiring talents from a jazz
players perspective. Finally, people are discovering what it means
to be a musician, he remarks. He explains when to use a metronome and when
to use the stomach to breathe. Viewers say he is cruel, but fair.
Katché says that preparing to play is like training for a marathon. You
run every day for three years. As time passes, you want it to be over already
so you can give your all and show what you are able to do. He finds this same
stamina is required to display his best musical dexterity.
During Shaking the Tree on Peter Gabriels Secret World Live,
Gabriel proclaims Manu Katché! Shaking two trees! Katché
continues to shake not one, but two trees. Hes knocking it down with respect
for the sounds he produces, looks to compose more, and hopes to take new chances.