Jaki Liebezeit has died. He was 78. Best known as a founding member of CAN he also played on albums by Jah Wobble and Philip Jeck as well as Depeche Mode and Brian Eno (he’s one of a handful of magnificent drummers on Before and After Science).
But it’s his work with CAN that resonates – half man, half machine they said. He was a metronome. And yet he came from the free-jazz scene, had this ability to create nuanced groove-work that felt free flowing and precise. All at once. And every time. See here or here.
When the CAN reissues – those classic albums, the first half dozen in particular – came
into my hands it was a great new discover. Music that was instantly so vital and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard it earlier, hadn’t lived with it for longer. Particularly the albums
Soundtracks, Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi – that was enough for starters. Whole worlds right there. And the key to it all, the glue, the driving force, was the work of Jaki Liebezeit, a drummer who thought and played like a percussionist – drummer-as-composer. He contributed other instruments to the band’s sound too but his mastery of the drum-set and his way of playing a straight, simple groove but always augmenting it – sitting on a ride/snare/bass groove for so long but always able to add the flourishes, to dive-bomb off across toms and cymbals without disrupting, only ever adding more colour to the groove – was astounding to me. An instant hero. A new force to not just listen to and try to absorb but to constantly think about.
He was an innovator and dynamic musical force.
Sad news today. To learn that Jaki Liebezeit has died from Pneumonia. He hadn’t
retired. He had been still playing, working on various projects.
The music of CAN is where you best hear Liebezeit but also, sticking with the Krautrock magic, check out his work with Michael Rother. Jaki was a very special player. One of the very best.
R.I.P. Jaki Liebezeit