Friday, November 28, 2008

Manu Katché Band - London Jazz Festival day 4

Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Monday 17th November

The Manu Katché Band deliver their own brand of pristine grooves with such consummate ease one cannot help be seduced, and give in to the warm vibe. From the moment the opening track 'November 99' hit cruising speed, the battle for hearts and minds was already won.

The set consisted of tracks from the 'Neighborhood' and 'Playground' albums, the simple arrangements of which are a masterclass in understated and economical tune writing. The tracks were lovingly played, each note shaped, caressed and gently passed over to us. Norwegian players Mathias Eick on trumpet and Trygve Seim on saxophone executed the graceful horn lines with crystal clear precision and just the right amount of intensity. Jason Rebello was a revelation on piano. Making almost continuous eye contact with Katché, he steered the music's harmonic backbone expertly with crafted quotients of soul, mystery and muscle, all metered out in perfect proportions. The energy levels notched up a gear during a surging grooved interlude where Rebello took the opportunity to do his funky blues thing. Double bass player Jerome Regard nailed down the bottom end with minimum fuss and maximum impact.

A minor slip for me was the centrepiece drum solo. There's no disputing Katché's fabulous feel, but the solo improvising was a little unimaginative, and just a tad too rocky. On the plus side, the solo followed through into a great version of 'So Groovy', complete with bang-in-the-pocket trumpet and piano solos. Rebello went from strength to strength and was really flying towards the end of the set. A sustained standing ovation was rewarded with a restful version of 'Rose' sending us calmly home. Unpretentious and inspired stuff.

Review reproduced courtesy of the London Jazz Festival and Jazzwise Magazine.

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