Last month I dove head deep into Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition, his solo project that released four solid albums on ECM: Special Edition (1980), Tin Can Alley (1981), Inflation Blues (1983), and Album Album (1984). They’ve recently been re-released in a great retrospective box set, which I bought from Chicago’s Jazz Record Mart last month. (Highly recommended.) Special Edition released later albums on other labels, and I’ll definitely be seeking those out now…
I’ve long been a fan of Jack’s playing, and have a quite a ton of his sideman recordings (especially considering my Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett collections). This has been my first foray into Jack’s material as a leader. And this will definitely be the beginning, because I am LOVING it thus far. Jack’s keyboard skills are often on display – on piano, melodica, organ, clavinet, and more – as well as some occasional vocals. The melodic is a particularly nice touch, as it really thickens the horn lines. As for the rest of the band, DeJohnette, like Duke, writes for the strengths of his musicians, giving each album its own unique stamp.
In brief, Special Edition is more of a collective than a singular band. The personnel changes to some degree with each record and tour, but the overall ethos is maintained. DeJohnette’s music is pretty horn-friendly, with the debut album including tunes dedicated to Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, and Duke Ellington. Not surprisingly, the groove is always deep and intact. Though, depending on the tune and personnel, the music can get out pretty quickly, there’s often a pervasive joy throughout the music. Sometimes it’s energetic (e.g., “One for Eric,” “Zoot Suite,” “Festival,” “I Know”) and other times it’s relaxed (e.g., “Ebony,” “Pastel Rhapsody,” “Inflation Blues”), but it’s always joyous. Mingus‘s spirit definitely resides in Special Edition’s discography, with the eclectic instrumentation and persistent ebullience.
I’ve come across quite a few solid clips, and decided to start with the final number of this 1988 performance at the Jazzfest Berlin. “Third World Anthem” covers a few of the aforementioned bases: groove, intensity, joy. (This video comes from a television broadcast, explaining the announcer that emerges halfway through to name the musicians.) This particular lineup features:
“Third World Anthem” (1988)