E One Music ****
Resonating bells and soft, deftly explorative piano are the way Jack DeJohnette chooses to begin this his latest album released later in the autumn during a year in which the great Chicago drummer has turned 70. The second track, after the brief opener, has delicious vocals from Esperanza Spalding over the top of Jack’s salsa beat and Luisito Quintero’s percussion, and there’s lovely guitar syncopation from Lionel Loueke, with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire chipping in as only he knows how. The cover with concentric rings radiating from a deepening red cymbal hub is emblematic of the ripples DeJohnette sends out not just with his virtuoso playing but his holistic musical approach, one involved in the search for the rhythm within as much as the rhythm without.
There are quite a few different line-up variations on this Robert Sadin-produced nine-tracker, with the band’s size swelling and contracting to suit Jack’s arrangements. ‘Dirty Ground’ with a vocal from Bruce Hornsby is the most accessible, with a “New Orleans-meets-The Band" vibe, and a great downhome shuffle from Jack who co-wrote the song with the man DeJohnette in the notes refers to as ‘The Bruce’. Rolling Stones saxophonist Tim Ries adds great soprano sax on the song, and Loueke shows his range with some funky licks on a tune the lyric of which points to the need in New Orleans or anywhere for that matter not to give up or give in!
‘New Music’ arranged by DeJohnette for just quartet with Spalding on bass this time and more Ries is followed by the expanded Caribbean-flavoured ‘Sonny Light’, then the title track and two other deeply engrossing tracks, including a lovely spot from Bobby McFerrin on ‘Oneness’ written for Gateway, and Jason Moran cropping up on ‘Indigo Dreamscapes’ leading eventually to the meditative Abdullah Ibrahim-flavoured ‘Home’, with DeJohnette on piano by himself, back as it were to where it all began on piano before the drums took him into another sphere entirely.
A wonderful record, beautifully conceived and communicative throughout, with plenty going on from start to finish. Jack’s just about the greatest jazz drummer alive, and this record shows a spread of just a little of what’s he’s all about in a career that has seen him play with everyone from John Coltrane and Miles Davis to Charles Lloyd, Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett. Jack DeJohnette is leading a fine quintet in the UK in November to support the release, and dates are: RNCM, Manchester (13 November); Howard Assembly Rooms, Leeds (14 Nov); Corn Exchange, Cambridge (15 Nov); Queen Elizabeth Hall, London (16 Nov); Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham (20 Nov); and Sage, Gateshead (21 Nov). Stephen Graham
Pictured above: Jack DeJohnette