Anaylsis Audio


Manu Katche “Neighbourhood”

Beauty To Behold

April, 2007


Come closer and let me whisper in your ear about one of the most exciting young pianists currently working on the jazz scene today. His name is Marcin Wasilewski and he can be heard most frequently on the wonderful recordings of the Polish trumpeter, Thomasz Stanko. Wasilewski, along with Stanko and bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz, recently performed at the Regattabar here in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A packed audience witnessed a spell bounding display of soulful experimentation from these extraordinary musicians. Watching the youthful Wasilewski perform live was a treat unto itself. Wasilewski is a brilliant talent, who literally dances with his piano when he plays. On quiet passages, he leans his close shaven head right down to the keys as if whispering cues to them. On his powerful crescendos and runs he lets his feet and legs leap and dance underneath his piano as if to propel his trajectory. He has a beautiful way with melody and experimentation, leaving the listener gasping for air after many a spirited solo. Wasilewski combines beauty with comic wit, frolicking up and down the keyboard with an exuberance that is truly infectious. One moment he unfurls a beautiful, tender ballad and the next, he delivers a satin-rich note that hangs and decays into the next flowing note from Stanko’s trumpet.

What a treat to now hear Wasilewski, along with Stanko and Kurkiewicz, bring their ingenious company to drummer Manu Katche’s recording, Neighborhood. This disc contains everything I love about jazz in a small ensemble setting. Pristine sonic production by Manfred Eicher pulls you into its magic and never lets you go. The attention alone given to Katche’s shimmering brilliance on drums is worth every moment. Katche proves himself on this disc to be an extraordinary percussionist and composer of music. We start with “November 99” which is my favorite on the disc. This piece is achingly beautiful, so simple in its deep melody cast by Kurkiewicz’s long, reverberant notes on his double bass. Wasilewski begins the piece with a tender wisp of piano, joined by Katche’s crystalline cymbals. This simple piece evolves slowly, taking form between the spaces and pauses of deep bass, drums and Wasilewski’s softly etched piano lines. Following this contemplative piece, “Number One” whisks us away on a magic carpet ride with a bossa beat as our guide. Jan Garbarek’s streaking and breathy tenor moves in and out of a gentle web cast by Wasilewski’s light touches and Katche’s delicate use of his wood rims and the inner portions of his cymbals. Kurkiewicz’s double bass is so low and reverberant here that your system will be tested to its depths to keep it taut and in its proper perspective. From this journey, we enter “Lullaby” with Stanko making his first breathy appearance on trumpet. The slow, melodic interplay between Stanko and Wasilewski creates a starkly beautiful, soulful duet. The recording is so wonderful and tangible that you can sit back and follow all of Katche’s creative machinations with his cymbal and drum work as he carves out a world existing in perfect unison with this nocturnal trance. Beautiful interplays continue on the deep, positive ballads of “Good Influence” and “February Sun” leading into the light, quick sway of “No Rush.” Here, Wasilewski takes up the positive vibe and exchanges it back and forth with Stanko’s trumpet, soaking up all of the energy from Katche’s quick, inventive stick work and the foundation provided by Kurkiewicz’s double bass below. Beauty and joy continue to be the hallmarks of “Lovely Walk,” as Garbarek enters with a strident solo backed up against Katche’s wild cornucopia of percussion colors, from his sharp, deep blasts from his drums to those immense broad decays from his cymbal hits. Katche has a way with his kit that is a joy to behold and Eicher’s production is so tactile that you literally sit next to Katche and witness all he creatively provides. The recording ends with all players joining for “Rose,” another gorgeous hymn to a contemplative moment. It takes off with a few deep notes from Kurkiewicz’s soulful double bass and enters a simple melodic foray taken up first by a soothing Garbarek tenor solo and then by Wasilweski’s piano. Wasilweski slows everything down to the barest moment in his solo, then rises with energy as Katche unfurls a snare roll behind him to keep him reaching. The two continue rising and blooming until the piece concludes suspended in mid air with Wasilewski’s last pristine notes gently fading away.

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Nelson Brill