London Jazz Festival Review (3) Manu Katche

Manu Katche plus the Eric Legnini Trio.
(Queen Elizabeth Hall. London Jazz Festival, Friday 12th November.Review by Fran Hardcastle)

Manu Katche is a big commercial success in France, with his own music TV show, ‘One Shot Not’, and having spent four years judging the French version of X Factor. He’s also the touring drummer for Sting, amongst other big pop names. No surprise therefore that his music is of the sort that has appeal to all.

The tracks performed from his latest album, Third Round were compact and neat. As a composer his writing is very lyrical. Norwegian saxophonist Tore Brunborg was proffered plenty of opportunities to showcase his smooth clean sound. When he was able to let rip, his solos were blazing and enthralling. The simplistic groove-led nature of the charts provided plenty of room to expose the listener to the technically astounding drumming of Katche, whose playing is replete with fascinating detail and subtly imaginative fills. There are moments where the writing leans precariously towards easy listening. But that isn’t against expectation and the very appreciative audience certainly didn’t mind.

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This was the first gig of the French Focus strand of the London Jazz Festival, a result of the partnership between the French Music Bureau and the festival. Strong support came from the excellent pianist Eric Legnini’s trio.

Eric Legnini is perhaps best known for his work with Kyle Eastwood. His accessible jazz encompasses funk, blues and rhythm and blues. Yet, his writing and the musicianship of the excellent Sylvain Romano on bass and Franck Agulhon on drums set the material several notches above others in this genre in terms of interest and subtle complexities.

A strong Ray Charles influence could be picked up in the first chart. Agulhon’s drum segue into the second chart was quite spectacular. Using a small tambourine under his hand on the tom tom and introducing African and Caribbean beats, with intricate fills.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m as keen as the next girl to have an excuse to go to Paris, but it’s great to get the opportunity to hear bands such as the Eric Legnini Trio in London.

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