Manu Katche Balletic Drumming, Playful and Precise

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Manu Katché
Manu Katché is a drummer of watchful effervescence, attuned to the tiniest particulars of rhythm and timbre but intent on a feeling of unthinking ease. His playing suggests precision without premeditation, which is one reason for his success along a certain pop bandwidth.

You've probably heard him, whether or not you've realized it, backing Peter Gabriel or Sting. It's less likely that you've encountered him as a solo artist. “This is my first gig with my band in the States," he said at the Highline Ballroom on Thursday night.

Mr. Katché, who hails from France, has released three albums on the ECM label in the last five years, each a softly burnished production at the crossroads of jazz, soft rock and smooth soul. His most recent is “Third Round," featuring the Norwegian saxophonist Tore Brunborg, who appeared with him on Thursday alongside the pianist Alfio Origlio and the electric bassist Laurent Vernerey, playing songs from all three ECM releases.

Their intermittently engaging first set, which stretched to concert length, brought to mind a fondue pot of influences from the 1970s: Bob James and Grover Washington Jr.; certain Steely Dan; the Wayne Shorter album “Native Dancer," and some of his work with Weather Report. But really, the guiding precedent was Keith Jarrett's working quartet with the Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, which recorded for ECM and had a profound influence on the European jazz mainstream.

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