Jaki Liebezeit in December 2011 Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On Sunday singular German drummer Jaki Liebezeit died in his sleep at age 78 while suffering a sudden case of pneumonia. He leaves behind a profound musical legacy, the cornerstone of which is his membership in influential art-rock band Can—nearly five decades later, the records he made with that group sound fresher and more original than anything the vast majority of their contemporaries produced. Can were key figures in the Krautrock scene (along with the likes of Kraftwerk, Neu!, Faust, Ash Ra Tempel, and Amon Düül), and their trademark sound relied largely on Liebezeit’s loose, massive grooves—a rhythmic armature that gave his bandmates the freedom to shape abstract textures, needling solo lines, and hypnotic chants in constantly shifting combinations.

His drumming delivered the energy of rock, but he drew its rhythmic concepts from a wide range of sources, including jazz (early in his career he played with the great German trumpeter Manfred Schoof) and ethnic music from Africa and the Middle East. I’m devoting today’s 12 O’Clock Track to Liebezeit’s remarkable skills and irresistible sense of time, and it wasn’t easy to pick a single song. It may be an obvious choice, but “Mushroom” from Can’s 1971 masterpiece, Tago Mago, is unfuckwithable, capturing the drummer’s nonchalant genius as effectively as any single piece of music he ever made.

YouTube video

Today’s playlist:

Building Instrument, Kem Som Kan å Leve (Hubro)
Circadia, Advances and Delays (Sofa)
Meredith Monk, On Behalf of Nature (ECM)
Eric Revis Trio, Crowded Solitudes (Clean Feed)
Lisa Batiashvili, Daniel Barenboim, and Staatskapelle Berlin, Tchaikovsky-Sibelius Violin Concertos (Deutsche Grammophon)