Manu Katché drums
Tore Brunborg saxophones
Jason Rebello piano, Fender Rhodes
Pino Palladino bass
Jacob Young guitar
Kami Lyle trumpet, vocal
Recorded December 2009, Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines
Engineers: Gérard de Haro and Nicolas Baillard
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Third Round follows up drummer Manu Katché’s previous ECM albums, Neighbourhood and Playground with his deepest love long yet. Joining him are saxophonist Tore Brunborg, pianist Jason Rebello, bassist Palladino, and guitarist Jacob Young. The latter contributes to three polished tunes: the lovely, piano-driven “Keep On Trippin’,” the gorgeous “Springtime Dancing,” and the sunlit “Flower Skin,” in which his acoustic shines brightest. Also guesting is Kami Lyle, who sings her own lyrics and plays trumpet in the tender “Stay With You.” It’s something of a surprise in a soundscape dominated by grooves and paved improvisational avenues.
In spite of the equal contributions from each musician throughout and Katché’s own understated role as leader, the drummer’s cymbals are truly the key to unlocking this album’s secrets. The opening “Swing Piece” is emblematic in this regard. It takes its first stretches of awakening on a soft layer of piano, over which Brunborg and Palladino sprinkle their dust, setting up a pulse that moves us to the end. But it’s Katché’s sparkle that really sets this vessel along the set list’s meticulous progression from horizon to horizon. To be sure, his bandmates interlock expertly in “Being Ben” and “Shine And Blue,” but the cymbals break surface at every turn with almost neon brilliance.
Katché has always been a melodic player, but on Third Round he turns up the dial on atmosphere, brushing around the beat a little in “Senses” and lending fragrance to the blossoming “Out Take Number 9,” a nominally expendable studio blip that turns out to be a real highlight. In the smokily final “Urban Shadow,” he paints two eyes closing in anticipation of a dance that never quite comes. Then again, that’s the beauty of Katché’s music: delicate yet always engaging, it holds you just enough to let you know it’s there if you need its comfort.
(To hear samples of Third Round, click here.)