Jack DeJohnette – Pictures (1997)
Jack DeJohnette is a God-tier drummer, and one of the top ten jazz drummers of all time. Here, he drums for almost 37 minutes non-stop, with only one other instrument present: a rising organ (track 1), electric guitar (tracks 3 & 4), acoustic guitar (track 5) and piano (track 6), and the results aren’t as rewarding as they sound – and they don’t even sound that rewarding on paper: John Abercrombie spends the entirety of “Picture 4” and most of “Picture 3” that isn’t the main theme searching for something that he never finds; the only track that Abercrombie is a part of that’s good is “Picture 5,” where DeJohnette’s military drumming fills out the space between his acoustic guitar tinkering. Elsewhere, “Picture 6”, apparently a highlight in the few reviews I’ve read, starts off well enough with DeJohnette creating something that reminded me of Nils Frahm’s best, but then spends 5 minutes with a gong/cymbal manipulation that just sounds lame, and “proper” drums don’t come in until the final minute.
Jack DeJohnette – Oneness (1997)
I’ve heard a lot of good things about this one, but it turned out to be just another Jack DeJohnette showcase: like Pictures, but instead of either piano or guitar accompaniment, this one has – ah! – both at the same time! (Plus additional percussion from Don Alias, whom DeJohnette worked alongside for Davis’ fusion period, and while I’m the connections, guitarist Jerome Harris linked up with DeJohnette under Sonny Rollins.) Anyone interested in DeJohnette’s drumming has plenty of other places to go to; this one turns into background music after the somewhat cheesy new age opener and the immersive swirling pool of “Free Above Sea.”
Jack DeJohnette – Sound Travels (2012)
1. A fairly lightweight record, this one. Lightweight, because one can easily scotch “Dirty Ground,” which features Bruce Hornby singing some pretty serious lyrics about Hurricane Katrina over an instrumental that’s simply too positive to work (Hornby’s lyrics were added afterwards and the song retitled, and it shows), or the miniature title track, or closer “Home” (meant to mirror “Enter Here”), and because both “Oneness” and “Indigo Dreamscapes” are reworks of older tracks (from Homecoming and Parallel Realities, respectively) … but still worth a listen. Sound Travels is notable for Jack DeJohnette playing piano on 8 out of the 9 tracks (the only one he doesn’t play piano on is “Indigo Dreamscapes”), which is more tracks than he plays drums. Not that that’s a bad thing: this isn’t like Charles Mingus taking up piano and delegating bass duties to someone else (as on Oh Yeah), because (1) Jack DeJohnette still plays drums on almost every track that calls for it (except “Oneness”), and (2) Jack DeJohnette is actually a good piano player (though he gets upstaged by Jason Moran, who takes over piano duties on “Indigo Dreamscape”). Don’t take my word for it: he does some really wonderful things on the first two tracks, using his left hand for a sustaining ping that creates a ripple effect for the right hand’s moonlight on “Enter Here”, and his rising piano wave (near the 3-minute mark) connects together the two parts of “Salsa for Luisito.” That one is an easy album highlight, with Esperanza Spalding’s vocals in the first half (plus harmonies) gliding effortlessly through the air. Other highlights include DeJohnette’s drumming on “New Muse” (especially during saxophonist Tim Ries’ solo), and the loving Sonny Rollins tribute immediately afterwards. (Jack DeJohnette worked with Sonny Rollins on Rollins’ late-period albums, of which almost all contained at least one Calypso track.) Dig how both Lionel Loueke (guitar) and Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet) both seem to understand the different sides of Rollins, with the former launching from a variation of the theme straight into a thorny attack, and the latter more interested in Rollins’ unashamed melodicism/romanticism.
2. I wonder if Luisito Quintero, who has worked with Paul Simon, is responsible for connecting the two on Paul Simon’s Stranger to Stranger a few years later.