NPR logo Giving the Drummer His Due

Giving the Drummer His Due

Number One

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Friday's Song

  • Song: "Number One"
  • Artist: Manu Katché
  • CD: Neighbourhood
  • Genre: Jazz

Manu Katché steps into the spotlight after years spent behind the stars. Jean-Baptiste Mondino hide caption

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Jean-Baptiste Mondino

At a certain point, after a drummer has spent years as the backbone of big acts, he isn't even considered a musician anymore — he's the appliance that pumps out the arena-sized beats. This is what he does, who he is. But even drummers have inner lives.

Case in point: Manu Katché, the Paris-born rhythm master, who has spent years supporting Sting, Peter Gabriel, and others. The creator of his own signature pulse — a cymbal-splash whirl that brings elements of jaunty African polyrhythm to fist-pumping anthemry — Katche has, it turns out, interests beyond the big rock show, and a musical philosophy more adventurous than his high-profile associations would suggest.

All these components come together nicely on "Number One." Over a pattering pulse that's at once airy and relentlessly forward-rushing, Katché's group outlines a simple four-bar theme a child might write while dawdling at the piano. It's a skeletal idea on which to build, but the assembled musicians — particularly saxophonist Jan Garbarek, a frequent Katché collaborator, and pianist Marcin Wasilewski — do just that, engaging in jazzlike crosstalk that isn't cramped by jazz convention.

In a matter of minutes, through sensitive repetition, the vamp snowballs into something almost wondrous: a piece that lifts the familiar cyclical churn of rock to a more expansive plane where anything can happen.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Manu Katche

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