Tag Archives: jack dejohnette

New Listen: Jack DeJohnette’s ‘In Movement’

jack dejohnette in movement

Jack DeJohnette’s In Movement is a powerful addition to an already consequential discography as a bandleader. Among other ventures, the bands and recordings under DeJohnette’s Special Edition moniker are formidable. Unfortunately, this still seems to be a surprise for some, as the drummer, composer, and pianist is often considered “just a sideman.” (Which is laughable — even if he’d never functioned as a bandleader, the fact that he’s played with just about everybody since the 1960s, while remaining one of music’s best drummers at 73, nearly negates the connotation of “sideman.”)

In Movement features:
Jack DeJohnette — drums, piano, electronic percussion
Ravi Coltrane — tenor, soprano, and sopranino saxophones
Matthew Garrison — electric bass, electronics

Much has been made of the historical nature of In Movement‘s lineup. (Coltrane and Garrison’s fathers, John Coltrane and Jimmy Garrison, formed half of arguably the greatest quartet in jazz history. Furthermore, DeJohnette sat in with the elder Coltrane in the early 60s, years before joining Miles Davis — also Trane’s former employer — later that decade.) However, don’t be fooled by any sense of nostalgia: the playing and sounds are fresh. It’s an album of today, informed by yesterday, and looking to tomorrow.

One of DeJohnette’s main strengths as a bandleader and composers is his command of orchestration in small ensembles. His Special Edition bands, for example, sound like groups of Mingus-y proportions instead of the quartets and quintets they are. Similarly, In Movement often sounds much bigger than a trio. That’s not to say that it’s busy and cluttered. There’s a lot of space on this record. But, between the three of them, they bring the forces and possible textures of a quintet. Garrison’s electronic work often provides a sonic bed or wash to envelop the group, with DeJohnette’s piano providing a nice acoustic counterpoint to the electric sounds. And it’s worth noting Coltrane’s strong presence, not only on his standard-issue tenor and soprano, but also on sopranino. I believe this album is his recording debut on the instrument, and what a strong one it is. Sopranino is a difficult horn to manage, even (unfortunately) for those who play it regularly, but Coltrane doesn’t falter here. I’ll be honest: when I first read that he played it on this album, I rolled my eyes, and my ears waited for it to stick out like a sore thumb. However, I instead realized partway through “Rashied” that I was hearing masterful sopranino work.

In Movement includes three covers which emphasize the album’s lineage: a weighty, solemn rendition of John Coltrane’s “Alabama” (with the composer’s son on tenor, channeling his father) opens the album; a sparse, soprano- and piano-driven rendition of Miles Davis and Bill Evans’s “Blue in Green”; and a plodding, deeply grooving account of “Serpentine Fire” by Earth, Wind & Fire that sounds wholly different from the original. Other allusions appear elsewhere, with “Rashied” (for drummer Rashied Ali) featuring a fiery sax and drum duet reminiscent of Interstellar Space, and “Two Jimmys” (for Jimmy Garrison and Jimi Hendrix) allowing Garrison plenty of room to paint an abstract sonic canvas rife with effects, distortion, and wandering lines.

It’s better to almost ignore the titles, though, as the other originals blend right in. “Lydia” is a mid-tempo stroll which tastefully blends Coltrane’s melodic soprano playing with DeJohnette’s trademark (at least to me) cymbal work and Garrison’s pocket bass lines and electronic textures. “In Movement” is a fitting title track, capturing not only the highlight talents from “Lydia,” but also exploring quicker, more intertwined lines and grooves. It’s also an apt title — while DeJohnette and Coltrane forge ahead, Garrison both follows on bass and stretches time with his electronic textures. And though “Alabama” served as a somber opening, “Soulful Ballad” is more optimistic, with DeJohnette and Coltrane trading drums and tenor for piano and soprano, respectively.

This is an encouraging sign of where DeJohnette’s bandleader duties may be headed in this stage of his career, particularly on ECM. I’m already waiting for the follow-up.

In Movement was released on May 6 by ECM Records and is available now.

Album links:

MTH-V: Keith Jarrett Trio Live in Antibes

I’m rather dumbfounded to realize that Keith Jarrett hasn’t yet received a dedicated post here. He’s one of my all-time favorites, and his jazz and classical recordings occupy significant real estate in my collection (including the elusive Sun Bear Concerts box set, which was a nice find last year in Munich). I haven’t done one of these video posts in a while, and what better way to resurrect the series than with someone whose career enjoyed a resurrection of sorts around 2000 (after a bout with chronic fatigue syndrome).

I first knowingly heard Jarrett’s playing when an excerpt from The Köln Concert popped up on an internet radio station (AccuRadio?) while I was doing homework at my apartment in college. I was taken with the music and jotted down the album info. I later learned of Jarrett specifically (i.e., could identify the name and face) through his work with Miles Davis, then realizing it was the pianist I had heard online. Years later I first heard him as a leader on a friend’s copy of Bye Bye Blackbird, which prompted me to get my first Jarrett album, Up For It, in 2006. Up For It remains a perennial favorite thanks to the renditions of “Scrapple from the Apple” and “Autumn Leaves.” That quickly led me down the rabbit hole of his voluminous discography. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him four times – twice solo and twice with the trio – since 2007, all of them at Orchestra Hall in Chicago.

I’ll admit I can be a bit of a fanboy, but I’m also able to know when “Keith’s being Keith.” He’s notoriously prickly, even when being sentimental (e.g., his NEA acceptance speech). And, for the uninitiated, the vocalizing and gyrating are more than distracting. (After getting used to his “distractions,” I don’t hear most of the utterances unless I really listen for them.) That being said, his phrasing and musicality are second to none, and, like Miles, one’s better off to just focuses on the music instead of the man. As for his phrasing, he claims to be more influenced by horn players than pianists, hence his regular emphasizing monodic lines.

I could pontificate about Keith Jarrett all day, so I’ll reel it in. In short, Jarrett’s output has been dominated the last 30 years by two main avenues: solo improvised recitals and his Standards Trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, seen below. The trio, so named for their extensive exploration of The Great American Songbook (as well as collective improvisation, but next to no original compositions), formed in 1983 for a recording date at the suggestion of Manfred Eicher. They recorded three albums at the session, and the rest is history. Especially after three decades, the ensemble is arguably telepathic – always different and consistently great. If I may, their renditions of “A Sleepin’ Bee” and “Stella By Starlight” on 2009’s Yesterdays are perfect and my two favorites by the group.

Part of why Jarrett hasn’t yet had a video post is that it’s difficult to find non-copyrighted video of he or the trio online. However, here’s a video of the French broadcast from the 1986 Juan Les Pins Jazz Festival in Antibes, France (where Up For It was recorded in 2002). The whole performance is on YouTube in four parts, and I recommend it if you have the time and interest. It’s a nice hidden gem. The below video is the opening number (and my favorite standard), “Stella by Starlight.”


MTH-V: JDJ Special Edition’s “Third World Anthem”

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 DolphyJohn 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:

Jack DeJohnette – drums
Mick Goodrick – guitar
Vincent Herring – alto saxophone
Lonnie Plaxico – bass
Gary Thomas – tenor saxophone

“Third World Anthem” (1988)

MTH-V: Charles Lloyd

This past Saturday I finally got to see Charles Lloyd (with his New Quartet) live at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater. These last five years or so I’ve become quite taken with Lloyd, and he’s perhaps my favorite living jazz saxophonist after Dave Liebman. (At least according to my wallet and library.) I blindly purchased 2001’s Hyperion with Higgins on a whim a few years ago, having been convinced by both the personnel (Charles Lloyd, John Abercrombie, Larry Grenadier, Billy Higgins, Brad Mehldau) and the record label (ECM, his nearly exclusive label since coming out of semi-retirement/reclusivity in the 80s) that it’d be worthwhile. In fact, for many reasons I’ll not list here, I consider that purchase/album to be the watershed moment for my love of ECM, when I went from thinking That’s a great label to That is THE label.

While I’ve since gone far down the rabbit hole that is Lloyd’s output, Hyperion remains one of my most-listened to jazz albums. But most of his other albums are in the running for a close second, and that’s because Charles is 1) always engaging and 2) surrounds himself with great players. Perhaps the single most appealing aspect of his playing, to me, is its gravitas. There’s no frivolity is Lloyd’s music, and even the more light-hearted moments have weight. That’s where I hear the influence of Trane most in his music, although the harmonic vocabulary is evident, its the ethos more than anything that grabs my attention. And even with the most chromatic of runs that may include multiphonics or other extended techniques, Lloyd’s unparalleled melodic and rhythmic phrasing make his playing appear deceptively simple or “in,” especially in the last couple decades. It’s more about subtle nuance than aggressive showboating or gymnastics with Lloyd.

At 74 he’s a solid as ever, and rhythm section of his New Quartet – solidified in ’07: Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland – provides a nice youthful balance to his more meditative approach. Without writing a full-blown concert review here, suffice it to say that Saturday night’s show scratched me right where I itched. The highlight for me was their powerful rendition of “Go Down Moses.” Stopping only to introduce the band twice, Lloyd & Co. captivated the auditorium for 100+ minutes.

I’ve assembled a variety of videos to serve as a primer for those unfamiliar with him. And if you’re already a fan, you should really dig these if you haven’t yet seem them. FYI – they’re in reverse-chronological order:

“Passin’ Through”
This features the New Quartet (and they performed this on Saturday, if you happened to be in attendance)

“Prometheus” (the first half)
Geri Allen – Piano; Eric Harland – Drums; Robert Hurst – Bass
Geri’s solo is top notch here…

“You Are So Beautiful”
Geri Allen – Piano; Billy Hart – Drums; Robert Hurst – Bass
(Yes, that “You Are So Beautiful,” although Lloyd’s interpretation practically transcends any other associations or notions you may have previously held about it.)

“Manhattan Carousel”
His famous quartet from the late 1960s – talk about being able to spot talent!
Keith Jarrett – Piano, Jack DeJohnette – Drums; Cecil McBee – Bass
Keith’s pianistic outburst at 3:15 gets me every time…