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Jack DeJohnette Quartet Sweeps Audience to Another World

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Tuesday February 26, 2013

From Seattle Music Insider

LIVE REVIEW: JACK DEJOHNETTE SOARS THROUGH DIMITRIOU’S JAZZ ALLEY (PHOTO SLIDESHOW)
By: Jonathan Sindelman

“The man sounds like a tub of water.” That’s probably the most memorable comment I’ve heard in response to a Jack DeJohnette drum solo, conveyed mid-flight into the second set of a performance at L.A.’s Catalina Bar & Grill in 1995. As a freshman in college and student of music, I had only just begun to inquire about DeJohnette’s work as a leader, having barely probed beyond his vast arena of better known associations with Charles Lloyd, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, and Keith Jarrett. Water as a metaphor may have been a fitting description for the music being played that evening, especially when considering the title of the album he was touring at that time, Dancing With Nature Spirits (ECM Records), presented and re-imagined in the context of a live trio with pianist Michael Cain and Lonnie Plaxico on acoustic-electric bass guitar. The consolidation of sound and discourse flowing from the drums would reach our ears with the gravity and force of a waterfall, as DeJohnette exercised an exceptional degree of physical control and fluidity in motion that to this day remains the very hallmark of his musical voice.

Fast forward to present day, when opportunities to catch DeJohnette in an intimate setting such as Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley have become fewer and farther between, where in Seattle’s market one might first expect to find the legendary drummer on stage with Keith Jarrett and Gary Peacock at Benaroya Hall. Concert events such as these may justifiably seek a premium, but there’s a perfectly good reason why the latest edition of DeJohnette’s quartet would make its trek for two mid-week performances in February, aside from what was billed as a milestone 70th birthday celebration. The invitation to witness the living art opens a door toward a uniquely informal approach to performance, which at its essence becomes a ritual presented in conditions where the artists themselves are fully enabled to service the art. For any modern jazz group to begin from nothing, capture a room almost immediately, and then literally sweep the audience off to another world – this phenomenon reveals with stunning clarity DeJohnette’s rare gift as a bandleader, which at its foundation appears to be more derivative from the ancient values found in storytelling.

A sudden change in the lineup was announced this past Tuesday (the same day as the band’s first performance at Jazz Alley), as Ravi Coltrane had sustained an injury that prevented him from playing. This prompted a call for Don Byron to stand in, the highly accomplished clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer who worked extensively with Jack DeJohnette on a number of projects, including Romance With The Unseen and Ivey-Divey (both on Blue Note). Portland-based musician George Colligan filled the piano chair, along with several keyboards and a couple of cameos on pocket trumpet, while six-string electric bassist Matt Garrison filled the bottom end, often bringing subtle synthesized treatments to his role.

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