This French/Ivory Coast-er drummer Manu Katché fellow has quite the resume - Euro-jazz saxophonist Jan Garberek, cosmopolitan prog-rockers Sting and Peter Gabriel, the Gipsy Kings, iconic songwriter Joni Mitchell, and rock/fusion guitar deities Joe Satriani and Jeff Beck. If, however, one might assume from so eclectic an array of credits that his second album (as a leader, natch) would be all over the proverbial map, one would be so wrong. Also, if one is Americentric, Afrocentric, or Europhobic and disses his disc just because is on the sonically flawless ECM label and/or full of European surnames, one (or all three) would be three strikes and out.
While Neighbourhood does have "that ECM sound," it is also a luminously lyrical, very (for the most part) straight-ahead, cliche-free, exceedingly excellent post-bop jazz album. Parts of this ‘hood indeed sound as if the were recorded in Jersey back-when by Rudy Van Gelder himself (albeit with equipment obtained via Outer Limits-type avenues). Even with its thundering, explosive drumming, "Lovely Walk" is a brooding waltz, something Wayne Shorter or McCoy Tyner might’ve come up with in the early 1960s.
The charming "Take Off and Land" has that funk-flavored Blue Note bebop near-boogaloo thang going on, similar to what Horace Silver and especially Herbie Hancock were groovin’ about in the mid/late-60s - ANYone thinking King of the Great White Norse Jan Garbarek can’t be old-school bluesy and soulful had best listen to his solo here and reassess, if not outright eat their words. Trumpeter Enrico Rava still has his "Mediterranean" sound, but with a touch more blues-shading and even gets into some restrained frenzy on "Miles Away" (where he doesn’t get Miles Davis-like, btw).
Katché is not your typical jazz drummer - in point of fact, he may not be a dyed-in-wool jazz drummer completely. His sound cracks more along the lines of Tony Williams and Matt Wilson or some of the better rock drummers.... but that’s OK, because he does have impressive chops and knows how/when to use them. [And there’s no drum solos! Kenny Clarke would be proud.] Listen to the subtle ease with which Katché moves along the lovely ballad closer "Rose," wherein swingin’ Marcil Wasilewski breaks your heart with his Miles-ian touch on the 88s. This may smack of hyperbole, but Neighbourhood is in line to be one of the best straight-no-chaser jazz platters of this not-so-new-anymore year.