Legendary Drummer Jack DeJohnette – Celebrating His 70 YearsBy Kaylene Peoples | July 1st, 2012 | Category: Indie Hotspot, Jazz, Music | No Comments »
I had the good fortune to watch three legends perform together at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood, CA, on May 15, 2012. They were drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Stanley Clarke, and pianist Chick Corea; and they were in concert celebrating Jack DeJohnette’s 70th birthday. The sounds coming from Catalina’s stage that evening could send a jazz lover straight to heaven. With the song “Black Narcissus” with Stanley playing a trance-like ostinato in the bass and Chick’s piano coming on the scene like a flurry, all players settled into a mellow, minor key. The trio did an interpretation of John Coltrane’s composition, “Miles Mode,” which opened with a lengthy, intricate drum exhibition by Jack. Another really hypnotic piece was the captivating “Parallel Realities” by Herbie Hancock. It had the feel of a mixed meter and settled nicely into a mellow common time. The show was incredible, and they encored with the Miles Davis piece “All Blues.”
All three musicians have a plethora of accolades, which include multiple Grammys, critically acclaimed songs turned standards, and very loyal audiences. I am well acquainted with the works of Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke, but the musician I knew the least about was the man for whom this celebratory concert was created. After the concert ended, I interviewed Jack DeJohnette and learned some interesting facts about him and his start as a drummer.
Here’s a little background on Jack DeJohnette.
As a leader, Jack has been the solid anchor and driving beat for 32 recordings, spanning from 1969 with The Complex to 2012 with his latest release Sound Travels. He has performed with musicians Paul Desmond, Pat Metheny, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, John Patitucci, John Purcell, and Joe Henderson, just to name a few.
Grammy-nominated drummer Jack DeJohnette is a mix of free jazz and world music, all while maintaining the deep grooves of jazz and R&B drummers. He is a master of improvisation and is the most highly regarded of drummers. He also occasionally appears on piano on his own recordings. Though he is often content with his drumming, remaining behind the music, “his drumming is always part of the music’s internal construction.” Writes Stuart Nicholson (August 2, 1998)—quoted from The Observer. Modern Drummer, in a 2004 interview, called DeJohnette’s drumming “beyond technique.” In terms of what he feels when he plays, DeJohnette said that when he plays, he goes “ . . . into an altered state, a different headspace. I plug into my higher self, into the cosmic library of ideas.”
Interviewed by Kaylene Peoples
Responses by Jack DeJohnette
What inspires you when you play drums?
I’m originally a pianist. In Chicago, where I grew up, there was a lot of music going on, and one of the albums from one of my favorite pianists, Ahmad Jamal, had the most impressive brush work I’d ever heard. I was so impressed that I went out and bought a set of drums. That album was a turning point for me. The other thing was I had a trio or combo, and the drummer left a set of drums in my basement for a while. I got a hold of my uncle who was a jazz DJ. Through him and through access with jazz records, I really got interested in drums. I started to play with the records. I found out that I had a natural affinity for the instrument. I started playing both [drums and piano] the same time in and around Chicago. Buddy Harris hired me to sub for his drummer and guitarist. He had a hit out called “Ecstasy Jazz.” I subbed for him a couple of times, and he said to me, “You play that piano well, but if you made the drums your main instrument, you ‘re going to go far.”
So, I kept on playing both instruments. I came to New York in the early 60s. Played with the John Patten Orchestra. He asked me if I had a set of drums and I said, yes. He told me, “You have a gig!”
What did you think of the statement “You play that piano well, but if you made the drums your main instrument, you ‘re going to go far”?
I think he was pretty accurate. I think I made a better drummer.
I noticed when you played, it was definitely coming from inside.
Well, the piano has helped me on the drums tremendously. I still play the piano and I compose on it. They’re both part of the percussion family.
Did you pick all the pieces for this evening or was it a collaborative effort?
Yes. Most of the pieces are my celebration. There was input from Chick and Stanley. It was a slight mix, but everyone was leaning towards me.
This performance you did a few originals, too?
Yes I did a few of them, “Indigo Dreams,” which is on my new album Soundtracks and my label Golden Beats.
To learn more about Jack DeJohnette’s new CD, visit his website: www.jackdejohnette.com.
See Jack DeJohnette in concert with Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, and Herbie Hancock performing his song “Indigo Dreamscapes.”