Jack DeJohnette

by Ken Micallef

Jack DeJohnetteJazz supergroups don’t come along often, but when they do—and especially when they include this legendary drummer—kaboom!

The fireworks created by Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, and bassist Matt Garrison are based in the trio’s collective twenty-year history, but their shared lineage goes back even further. DeJohnette played with his mates’ fathers, John Coltrane and Jimmy Garrison, who worked together in Coltrane’s innovative 1960s quartet that also featured McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones. The DeJohnette/Coltrane/Garrison trio’s ECM debut, tentatively titled In Movement, is set for spring 2016 release.

“We’ve been developing a loose concept of playing compositions and spontaneous improvisations,” DeJohnette explains. “Matthew utilizes his mastery of electronics along with his outstanding bass qualities. Ravi plays his three saxophones. I use electronic percussion, modules, and acoustic piano as well as drums. We have a sound; each one of us has our own voice on our own terms. That’s a great thing.”

Playing Sonor Hilite Exclusive drums and his signature lines of Aquarian drumheads and Sabian cymbals, DeJohnette also employs a Roland HandSonic and a Korg Wavedrum with the trio, and he and Garrison expand the music’s palette electronically in ways few contemporary jazz musicians can match. The group’s zeal recalls another ECM trio, heard on 1974’s Timeless: DeJohnette, keyboardist Jan Hammer, and guitarist John Abercrombie.

“We really like to do a lot of improvising in this trio,” DeJohnette says. “Sometimes we only have loose arrangements. And we like to approach written compositions from the outside, improvising and playing over the melodies, then going into the arrangement so things have a liquid flow.”

In addition to this relatively new trio, DeJohnette recently recorded a solo piano album, Return, on which he also accompanies himself on drums. Return is available by subscription from the vinyl-only label Newvelle Records, and it features, among other tracks, Miles Davis’s “Flamenco Sketches” and “Blue and Green”; Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Serpentine Fire”; the original composition “7th D”; and an interpretation of Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédies.”

With new projects increasingly filling his schedule, DeJohnette is also embarking on a tour with tap dancer Savion Glover. “He’s like the Coltrane of tap dance,” Jack says. “Tap and drumming are the same. Savion and I do call-and-response. Sometimes I comp for him; sometimes he comps for me. He’s a solo artist, like a tenor player or a piano player or a drummer. Savion and I do duets together, then my trio plays. It’s very challenging and a lot of fun.”

Jack DeJohnette MD CoverJack DeJohnette last appeared on the cover of Modern Drummer in June 2012, in an exclusive group interview with Terri Lyne Carrington and Roy Haynes. At one point in the discussion, he responded to Carrington’s recollection of playing with Herbie Hancock, which she described as sort of an out-of-body experience. “That’s like being at home when you’re in that space,” Jack said. “I get like that sometimes, to where I feel like I can levitate. I wish I could take the drums up with me sometimes! I feel weightless while playing the drums.”

photo by James Adams