Manu Katche


Review by Brad Walseth

A project filled with sonic delights and filled with both grooves as well as subtle and transcendent beauty, Playground continues drummer Katche's impressive growth as composer and bandleader. The haunting "Lo" opens and features Mathias Eick (taking over nicely for Tomasz Stanko) on trumpet, as well as some goose-bump inducing shadings by guitarist David Torn. Both "Pieces of Emotions" and "Song For Her" continue this compellingly dreamy landscape, with some fine work by pianist Marcin Wasilewski and bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz, before the groove kicks in on "So Groovy." This may be the primary difference between drummer Katche and most of the artists on the current European scene - in that although his harmonic colors are primarily of the same mist, he knows when and where to kick it. His experience playing with rockers like Peter Gabriel, Sting and Tori Amos surely has contributed to his style, but don't be dissuaded, because this is jazz and quite good jazz at that.

Young saxophonist Trygve Seim has replaced the iconic Jan Garabek on the new recording, and he fits like a glove with what Katche wants to do. The interplay between all the members is exemplary, well befitting their experience playing together in various configurations. Throughout it all, Katche's drums keep it all on pace, with no shortage of the delicious fills and colors he is well known for bringing to the table. "Morning Joy," with Wasilewski's shimmering piano work is another highlight, while "Motion" lives up to its name. "Project 58" and "Snapshot' could almost pass for smooth pop - indeed much of this recording could be acceptable to the large smooth jazz audience - but thankfully the music is deeper and more thoughtful than the sometimes shallow fare generally offered to the masses. By combining the intelligence of more complex jazz styles with the sheen of smooth jazz, Katche has either stumbled onto an impressive intermingling of styles, or created an anathema to purists. Due to the pleasurable results I received from listening, I subscribe to the former belief in this case.

"Possible Thought" and "Inside Game" continue the trend of enjoyable songs delivered with skill and verve by a talented musical unit. "Thought" features Eick's burning trumpet licks, while "Games"'' piano groove is slyly insidious. If there was a "hit" on the record, it could very well be "Clubbing" whose enjoyably boisterous expression makes one wish perhaps a bit more of this type of energetic exploration by this group may be in the offering next time out. But that is splitting hairs, because as the reprise of "Song For Her" ends the album, it is easy to appreciate this recording for what it is and smile.

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