CELEBRATING
50 YEARS

JazzTimes 10: The Composing Drummer (or the Drumming Composer)

A tentet of works by players who are as mighty with the pen as they are with the sticks

9. Jack DeJohnette: “Ebony” (Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition, Inflation Blues, ECM, 1983)

It should come as little surprise that Jack DeJohnette is a deft and nuanced composer. His drumming work is itself deft and nuanced, but it also features a dense vocabulary that can only be the product of its own kind of composition. “Ebony” reads like an overture, flowing from section to section and theme to theme but retaining its gentle texture and gait throughout. Even in its most stirring, marchlike section, the piece retains a fragility that is perhaps as attributable to its subtle instrumentation (Chico Freeman’s soprano saxophone, John Purcell’s flute and clarinet, Rufus Reid’s bass, DeJohnette’s piano) as to the composition. On the other hand, its characteristic lilt is baked in so solidly, abetting and then attenuating the drama of multiple sections, that it’s hard to imagine the tune sounding any other way.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.