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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Third Round

ECM 273 2131



1. Swing Piece
2. Keep on Trippin'
3. Senses
4. Being Ben
5. Une Larme dans ton Sourire
6. Springtime Dancing
7. Out Take Number 9
8. Shine and Blue
9. Stay with You
10. Flower Skin
11. Urban Shadow

Manu Katché - Drums
Tore Brunborg - Soprtano sax, tenor sax
Jason Rebello - Piano, Fender Rhodes
Pino Palladino - Bass
Jacob Young - Guitars (tracks 2, 6, 10)
Kami Lyle - Vocals, trumpet (tracks 9, 10)


The kind man at ECM, knowing that I am a drummer, sent me a couple of albums led by drummers. I passed on the Paul Motian CD to a colleague, because Motian has never been one of my favourite drummers, and my belief was strengthened by the arrhythmic brushwork or unfocused thrashing which Paul is mostly content to employ on the album, despite the undoubted talents of his companions: Chris Potter and Jason Moran. The drum solo on track 9 is almost embarrassingly inept and formless. Perhaps my colleague will have a higher opinion of that album.

I kept the Manu Katché CD, hoping for better things - and, indeed, it makes for more pleasant listening. This is the third ECM album from Manu Katché, who was born in Paris and has played with all kinds of artists, including Peter Gabriel, Sting and Jan Garbarek. He is joined on this CD by Norwegiann saxophonist Tore Brunberg - whose style very much resembles that of Jan Garbarek - and two Brits: English keyboardist Jason Rebello and Welsh bassist Pino Palladino. Two guests are added for a few tracks.

If I hadn't known that this group was led by a drummer, I might never have guessed it, because Manu is in the background most of the time. He does a good job of keeping the rhythm flowing with the help of Pino Palladino but otherwise he is hardly a dominant force. In fact his rimshots on the opening track seem tentative and ineffectual. Saxist Tore Brunborg takes most of the limelight with his dreamy solos that might be said to encapsulate the ECM style of vaporous improvising. The mournful tenor-sax on Senses is typical of this mood. It seems to infect Jason Rebello as well, whose contributions are often affable but meandering.

Even the normally easy-to-please reviewer John Fordham wrote that "the themes drift to the point where minimal-melody gets close to insubstantiability". All the tunes are compositions by Manu Katché, so perhaps he wanted to highlight his songwriting instead of his drumming, but the predominantly slow tunes are mostly unmemorable: creating an agreeable atmosphere but not lodging in the mind. And Kami Lyle's babyish vocals on Stay With You are embarrassing rather than touching. Even a potentially groovy number like Keep On Trippin' is undermined by a lack of bite in the playing.

This album may appeal to devotees of the cool style that ECM has espoused, but (regrettably) it leaves me rather cold.

Tony Augarde

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