Jack DeJohnette

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Krentz Ratings:
The DeJohnette Complex (1968), 5.5/10
Have You Heard (1970), 6.5/10
Compost (1971), 5.5/10
Sorcery (1974), 6/10
Untitled (1976), 6/10
New Rags (1977), 6/10
Tale of Another (1977), 6/10
New Directions (1978), 6/10
Special Edition (1979), 7.5/10
Tin Can Alley (1980), 7/10
Inflation Blues (1981), 7/10
Album Album (1984), 6/10
Piano Album (1985), 4/10
Zebra (1985), 5.5/10
Irresistible Force (1987), 5.5/10
Audio-Visualscapes (1988), 5.5/10
Earthwalk (1991), 6/10
Music for the Fifth World (1992), 5.5/10
Dancing with Nature Spirits (1995), 6.5/10
Oneness (1997), 5.5/10
Music in the Key of Om (2003), 6.5/10
Saudades (2006), 5/10
America (2008), 5/10
Made in Chicago (2013), 7/10
In Movement (2015), 5.5/10
Return (2016), 4.5/10

Chicago-born drummer Jack DeJohnette (1942) briefly flirted with the AACM avantgarde but moved to New York and cut his teeth in Charles Lloyd's quartet (1966-67). After replacing Tony Williams in Miles Davis' group (1968-70), DeJohnette debuted his own music on the rather conventional The DeJohnette Complex (december 1968), with tenor saxophonist Bennie Maupin, pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Miroslav Vitous or Eddie Gomez, and drummer Roy Haynes (Jack DeJohnette played melodica in Papa-Daddy and Me). His more experimental side came out with the two lengthy trio improvisations (Maupin on tenor saxophone and Gary Peacock on bass) of Have You Heard (april 1970), a 20-minute version of Papa-Daddy and Me and the 21-minute Have You Heard. His first group was a trio with a bassist and a drummer, documented on Compost (1971), on which he also played electric clavinet, organ and vibraphone. Sorcery (may 1974) collected two sessions, one (march) with Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet and John Abercrombie and Mick Goodrick on guitars (the 14-minute Sorcery #1) and one (may) with Dave Holland on bass (the seven-movement The Reverend King Suite).

DeJohnette also played in Abercrombie's Gateway, a trio with bassist Dave Holland that released Gateway (march 1975) and Gateway 2 (july 1977). Pictures (february 1976), a duo album with Abercrombie, contained his extended percussion solo Picture 2 and his extended piano solo Picture 6.

His experiments deconstructing the cliches of jazz-rock continued with the quartet Directions (saxophones, Abercrombie's guitar, bass and drums) and its cerebral extended pieces: the 14-minute Flying Spirits, on Untitled (february 1976), also featuring a pianist, Minya's the Moon and New Rags on New Rags (may 1977), with DeJohnette doubling on piano, Bayou Fever and Where or Wayne on New Directions (june 1978), that introduced a new line-up (Abercrombie, Chicago trumpeter Lester Bowie and bassist Eddie Gomez).

Gary Peacock, Jack De Johnette and Keith Jarrett collaborated on Peacock's Tales Of Another (february 1977), containing the three-part suite Trilogy.

A new quartet with David Murray on tenor and bass clarinet, Arthur Blythe on alto, Peter Warren on bass and cello, that ranked as one of the most innovative fusion groups of the era, debuted on Special Edition (march 1979), containing some of DeJohnette's most challenging music: the ten-minute One For Eric, the eleven-minute Zoot Suite and the eight-minute Journey To The Red Planet. Replacing the saxophonists with tenorist Chico Freeman and altoist John Purcell, Tin Can Alley (september 1980) and Inflation Blues (september 1982) further broadened the stylistic palette via adventurous pieces such as Tin Can Alley and the 13-minute Pastel Rhapsody on the former, Ebony, Islands and Starbust on the latter. While technically not particularly revolutionary, DeJohnette was proving to be one of the most accomplished composers among the drummers of all time. Special Edition became a quintet for Album Album (june 1984), with David Murray returning on tenor and the addition of Howard Johnson's tuba, and the music (with the exception of Third World Anthem) was becoming not only more eclectic but also much more accessible.

After a terrible Piano Album (january 1985), with DeJohnette interpreting standards at the piano, accompanied by bass and drums, and a futuristic soundtrack for a videogame, Zebra (may 1985), scored only for synthesizer (DeJohnette himself) and trumpet (Lester Bowie), DeJohnette resurrected the moniker Special Edition for Irresistible Force (january 1987) and Audio-Visualscapes (february 1988), but the players were all new (reed player Gary Thomas, saxophonist Greg Osby, electric bass and electric guitar) and the sound was updated to the new fashions of funk-jazz fusion. Earthwalk (june 1991) added Michael Cain's electronic keyboards and further stretched the compositions (On Golden Beams, Earth Walk, Monk's Plumb).

Another intriguing project was the shamanic Music For The Fifth World (february 1992), for a rock-ish quintet featuring guitarists Vernon Reid and John Scofield and a choir, drummer Will Calhoun and bassist Lonnie Plaxico (and with DeJohnette doubling on vocals and synthesizer). The pagan and spiritual phase led to the 20-minute Dancing With Nature Spirits and the 22-minute Healing Song For Mother Earth for a trio of keyboards, reeds and percussion, off Dancing with Nature Spirits (may 1995). It then transitioned to the spiritual and intimate Oneness (january 1997) and imploded into the 61-minute keyboard meditation Music In the Key of Om (august 2003).

Saalfelden (august 1998) documents a 57-minute live improvisation by Graham Haynes (cornet), Elliott Sharp (guitar, and bass clarinet) and Jack DeJohnette (piano, drums, congas).

The Trio Beyond, ostensibly based on Tony Williams' Lifetime, debuted with the double-disc Saudades (2006).

America (november 2008) is a collaboration between Jack DeJohnette and Wadada Leo Smith, originally composed in 1979.

The live Made In Chicago (2013) documents a quintet with Henry Threadgill (alto sax, bass flute and bass recorder), Roscoe Mitchell (soprano and alto saxes and wooden flute), Muhal Richard Abrams (piano) and Larry Gray (double bass and cello).

In Movement (october 2015) documents a trio with Ravi Coltrane (tenor, soprano and sopranino saxes) and Matthew Garrison (electric bass and electronics).

Return (Newvell, 2016) is a solo acoustic piano album, mostly revisions of old themes.

A Love Sonnet For Billie Holiday (november 2016) documents a trio with keyboardist Vijay Iyer and trumpeter Leo Smith. Smith composed the 18-minute The A.D. Opera and the 12-minute A Love Sonnet For Billie Holiday while Iyer composed the 9-minute Deep Time and DeJohnette the 14-minute Song For World Forgiveness.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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