There's that feeling when I am so impressed by a book, restaurant, or piece of music that I just can't recommend it enough. I want everyone else in the world to experience what I've felt so that we can discuss it in rapturous tones: That was a life-changing book! My God, the pierogies! Lennon may never have sounded better! I love when I just can't recommend something enough.
This isn't one of those occasions, but it's okay.
I've been listening to Manu Katché (pronounced mah-noo kotch-ay) for the last week and a half. I've had his 2016 album Unstatic playing on a loop as I've been writing. I have it on now, a quiet tune called "Trickle" that's a perfect accompaniment for writing.
That this isn't an album I just can't recommend enough gives the impression it's not good, but I want to wipe that idea out right now. The album is good jazz and Katché is a gifted drummer as anyone who has listened to his work with Peter Gabriel, Sting, Robbie Robertson, and Tears For Fears can easily attest. (By the by, those are four albums I just can't recommend enough. They're all genius and represent some of the best works of those artists.) I enjoy Unstatic each time I listen to it and have listened played it nine times in a week and a half, so what's the problem? It's not so much a problem as it is this:
I can't remember any of the songs after I've heard them.
I've listened to Katché's albums for years and wondered how I can so enjoy something in the moment but have it disappear almost completely from my mind at the album's end. Recently I found Ian Mann's review of Unstatic which included this illuminating passage:
While this music may be relatively undemanding it’s far from vacuous and there’s some excellent writing and playing throughout this record. (emphasis mine)
Undemanding music works well as background for writing but then disappears. The music doesn't ask enough to stick with me. There is an ineffable quality missing. The music is workmanlike jazz, Katché's writing is solid, his playing is excellent, and he has a strong band behind him. This is all good, but it's not genius jazz like Pat Metheny's "One Quiet Night", Brad Mehldau Trio's "Dream Sketch", or The Bad Plus's "Prehensile Dream.
That's okay. Workmanlike (however gendered that term remains) is good. Unstatic is great music for writing. It doesn't have to be a work of genius. Sometimes workmanlike beats genius. For instance, I have "Prehensile Dream" playing now and have to stop writing so as to pay attention. I just can't recommend "Prehensile Dream" enough. I can't even come close. My God, you should hear it.
I still recommend Manu Katché's jazz, especially as the background for doing creative work, but it's not like I can't recommend it enough. It has its place in my music library but maybe not in the depths of my heart.