Neglected Masterpieces: Manu Katche’s ‘Neighbourhood’

Very few albums, in my opinion, match Kind of Blue, Miles Davis’ legendary 1959 recording. But I think I have finally found one.

Album coverDrummer-turned-leader Manu Katché’s Neighbourhood displays a quite awe-inspiring line-up of jazz legends (a factor so significant that the album cover is simply a list of players on the recording, which shows you the stature afforded the musicians); trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, saxophonist Jan Garbarek, with pianist Marcin Wasilewski and bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz from Stanko’s own quartet, not to mention Katché himself.

Katché is a masterful and versatile dummer, having played alongside pop icons Peter Gabriel and Sting as well as being a colossus amonst jazz drummers – previous credits include Garbarek’s I Took Up The Runes, also for ECM. Neighbourhood is his debut recording as leader for the label, and has something of the timeless quality that made Kind of Blue so special: delicate, sparse textures that allow the music room to breathe, colourful harmonies that are leisurely in their exploration of the potential of modality and the twelve-bar blues.  The indebtedness to Davis’s album is perhaps most obvious on Miles Away which employs a similar bass-line and 6/8 rhythmic feel to All Blues.

Here’s a video for ‘Number One’ from the album:

There’s a simplicity about the music on the album that speaks of great profundity; as the leader and the drummer, Katché is completely alive to every nuance offered by Wasilewski’s delicate artistry, Garbarek’s plangent melodic lines and Stanko’s lyricism. There’s a relaxed funkiness to ‘Take Off And Land’ that still manages to generate a compelling rhythmic drive. 

Not many albums can stand next to Kind of Blue: but this one, perhaps, just might.

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