The drummer’s fourth album for ECM opens with just his characteristic playing: easy, open, with a deeply musical groove, a steady high-hat holding the pace while he creates lines with a combination of snare, bass drum and other decorative cymbal tones.
The instrumentation has changed again for this album, with the only carry-over from 2010′s Third Round the go-to ECM and Edition Records saxophonist Tore Brunborg. Joining him are trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer and keyboard player Jim Watson.
What, no bassist? Well, a listen to the album shows this is not a player missing but a space filled, sometimes by Katché’s drums and sometimes by Watson’s Hammond B3 pedals.
The introduction of organ – Watson also plays piano – expands the leader/composer’s choices for those lovely harmony melodies he so loves. On Bliss, for example, tenor and organ share the melody, with Molvaer’s processed trumpet sound saved for background washes and comment. On Imprint, by contrast, it is trumpet and piano that dominates the harmony in the melody with Brunborg doing his almost invisible harmony thing.
Brunborg is such a crucial part of every band he plays in, from Tord Gustavsen’s Quartet to the trio Meadow, but he is particularly important in this one.
Manu says: “In the band sound Tore is a ‘leader’ sonically. Even if I play melodically on my instrument, as a drummer I have other responsibilities in the ensemble. I can’t always be the leading voice. Tore’s approach to the melodies and the themes… is just right, and his sound is the sound I hear in my imagination when I write new music.”
There is a lot of lovely new music here, from the gentle brush-driven Loving You (strong piano solo from Watson), the rolling funk of Walking By Your Side (Molvaer creating layer upon looping layer of his rich trumpet sounds, and rich, fruity tenor over the Hammond), to the three-way trumpet/tenor/organ harmony of Short Ride and the hooky melody of the eight-minute plus Beats & Bounce (the title says a lot).
Their joys lie not primarily in jazz solos – nice though they are – but in the combinations of timbres over catchy grooves, and the drummer seems to have a bottomless pit of both timbral and rhythmic ideas.
It’s a measure of Katché’s strength of personal style, both in his playing and composing, that despite changing the personnel with each album, he has created a really cohesive body of work in his four ECM releases. This is a fine addition to the other three.