November 2003

Jack DeJohnette : Busy Body

It’s one week after the 2003 Montreal Jazz Festival, whose Invitation Series feted Jack DeJohnette and Lee Konitz. But rather than relaxing and basking in the glory of that honor, DeJohnette is in his Woodstock, N.Y., home wrestling with a recalcitrant water pump. Such is the busy life of this powerful drummer.

Montreal’s celebrated Invitation Series allows bandleaders to spend successive evenings performing in a different configuration of their choosing at the 800-seat Monument National building. For his Invitation Series, DeJohnette played in a trio with Herbie Hancock and Dave Holland (with whom the drummer will tour in 2004), a sextet with Don Byron, Edsel Gomez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Luisito Quintero and Jerome Harris, one duo with Bobby McFerrin and another with Gambian kora master Foday Musa Suso, a regular with Philip Glass’ ensemble. (Thrilled with the results, the two later hooked up at DeJohnette’s home studio and laid down tracks for future release.)

Soon after Montreal, DeJohnette reteamed with the musicians that comprise the Standards Trio, which celebrates 20 years in 2003, to tour behind their new live CD. “We’re all surprised that it has lasted this long,” DeJohnette says of his teaming with Keith Jarrett and Gary Peacock. “When we started we said we’ll do this as long as it feels good. [The trio is] always full of surprises and challenges. We still play standards, and sometimes we do open-ended things. It’s not predictable.” Their last two ECM CDs prove just that: 2003’s Up for It: Live in Juan Les Pins is in the standards vein, while it’s predecessor, 2001’s Inside Out, exhibits the trio’s spontaneous side.

Earlier this year ECM released another DeJohnette collaboration, Free and Equal, with frequent collaborator John Surman and the London Brass. The drummer’s most recent recorded appearance is on Miroslav Vitous’ Universal Syncopations (ECM), the bassist’s exceptional new album. (The remarkable lineup includes Chick Corea, Jan Garbarek and John McLaughlin.)

And because it’s never too early to plan, DeJohnette will do a week at Yoshi’s in Oakland, Calif., in February 2004 with John Scofield and Larry Goldings to celebrate Tony Williams. “We’ll be doing some of that Emergency music he did with the Lifetime band, plus other stuff like ‘Sister Cheryl,’ ‘Pee Wee,’ some original stuff from all of us and maybe something from [Lifetime organist] Larry Young,” DeJohnette says. “Tony was a genius on the drums and was developing himself as a writer. I was influenced by him, and we got to be pretty close friends.”

DeJohnette’s on the Web now, too, at jackdejohnette.com. “I’m starting a production company, Golden Beams Productions, and an Internet label that I’m going to be putting some things out on, like healing music and a project with Don Alias.”

A broken water pump will not slow Jack DeJohnette.

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