Manu Katche Band - 17/11/08 - QEH, LJF

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For a man often described as a forgotten drumming hero, this was a pretty unforgettable performance. Manu Katché is a rare commodity: a musician who really is a style unto himself. He is neither a rock nor a jazz drummer but he manages to combine a big rock/pop sound with the elegance and subtleties of jazz. Add African tribal influences, several years in Paris’ elite Ecole Superieur and you will have something pointing in Katché’s direction.

His set opened with a piano trio format that lay down a buoyant, irresistible groove. This drove a piece which rose to a vigorous expression of energy rooted by a funk bass line, and fell to a low simmering intensity which flickered just beneath boiling point. The group unfolded to its full extension when joined by Trygve Seim (saxes) and Mathias Eick (trumpet). Throughout the concert Katché played with an orchestral strength which sent torrents of energy and enthusiasm cascading from the stage onto the audience. This sound suffused his band with all the creative, technical and dynamic brilliance of its leader in a way which propelled each of them to a higher level of expression. The compositions also bore a unique fingerprint.

The melodies were poignant, simple and almost folkish in their execution. The harmonies were strong, bop orientated and layered on top of powerful pop/rock rhythms. Interestingly, the horn’s solos hardly strayed from the themes sketched in the compositions, perhaps not to distract from their inherent quality. Jason Rebello (piano) deserves special praise for his particularly lavish touch; he really gets into the instrument without being heavy handed. Furthermore, his a cappella solo in the encore displayed an exquisite sophistication and elegance in melodic development.

Manu left to a rapturous standing ovation wholly appropriate and thoroughly deserved for this consuming performance.

Review - Joseph Kassman-Tod