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Jack DeJohnette

A brilliant drummer who is also a significant bandleader and a fine keyboardist, Jack DeJohnette, like the late Tony Williams, stretches the mainstream of jazz and has the ability to keep time without actually stating the beat. He was born in Chicago in 1942, studying classical piano for 10 years, starting when he was 4. DeJohnette switched to drums while in high school, playing with his school’s concert band. He worked around the Chicago area as both a drummer and a pianist in settings ranging from hard bop and R&B to the avant-garde. DeJohnette was active in Chicago’s AACM and even had an opportunity to play with John Coltrane, playing second drums with Rashied Ali in 1966. But he gained his initial fame as a member of the very popular Charles Lloyd Quartet during 1966-68. Later in 1968, DeJohnette replaced Tony Williams as a member of the Miles Davis Quintet, appearing on Davis’ Bitches Brew and working with the group alongside Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea (later Keith Jarrett) and Dave Holland.

DeJohnette led his first album in 1968, The DeJohnette Complex. He began recording as a leader for ECM in 1971 and led Directions (later called New Directions), a quartet that included Lester Bowie, John Abercrombie and Eddie Gomez. Probably DeJohnette’s most significant group was Special Edition, which at various times featured David Murray, Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman, Greg Osby and Gary Thomas in the frontline. DeJohnette has worked with a who’s who of jazz throughout his career, including Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk, the Bill Evans Trio, Jackie McLean, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Eddie Harris, Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter, Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek, Kenny Wheeler and Chick Corea. In addition, he has been a member of the Gateway Trio (with John Abercrombie and Dave Holland) and Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio for decades.