Giving the Drummer His Due

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

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.

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

toggle caption 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.'

Purchase Featured Music


Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Manu Katche

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?




Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor