Photo: Jack DeJohnette @ New York’s Charlie Parker Jazz Festival | © Joyce Jones/ Suga Bowl Photography. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND. Used with Permission.
The next show will air on Sunday, October 1, 2017 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This is a broadcast features an interview with drummer, composer, bandleader and pianist Jack DeJohnette.
Born in Chicago in 1942, Jack DeJohnette grew up in a family where music and music appreciation was a high priority. Beginning at age four, he studied classical piano privately and later at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. He added the drums to his repertoire when he joined his high school concert band at age 14.
“As a child, I listened to all kinds of music and I never put them into categories,” he recalls. “I had formal lessons on piano and listened to opera, country and western music, rhythm and blues, swing, jazz, whatever. To me, it was all music and all great. I‟ve kept that integrated feeling about music, all types of music, and just carried it with me. I’ve maintained that belief and feeling in spite of the ongoing trend to try and compartmentalize people and music.”
By the mid-1960s, DeJohnette had entered the Chicago jazz scene – not just as a leader of his own fledgling groups but also as a sideman on both piano and drums. He experimented with rhythm, melody and harmony as part of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians during the group‟s early days, and later drummed alongside Rashied Ali in the John Coltrane Quintet. He garnered international recognition during his tenure with the Charles Lloyd Quartet, one of the first jazz groups to receive crossover attention.
In 1968, DeJohnette joined Miles Davis‟s group just prior to the recording of Bitches Brew, an album that triggered a seismic shift in jazz and permanently changed the direction of the music. Miles later wrote in his autobiography: “Jack DeJohnette gave me a deep groove that I just loved to play over.” DeJohnette stayed with Davis for three years, making important contributions to prominent Davis recordings like Live-Evil and A Tribute to Jack Johnson (both in 1971) and On the Corner (1972).
During this same period, DeJohnette also recorded his first albums as a leader, beginning with The DeJohnette Complex in 1968 on Milestone. He followed up with Have You Heard in 1970, then switched to Prestige, where he released Sorcery in 1974 and Cosmic Chicken in 1975.
The mid 1970s were marked by a series of short-lived groups and projects – many of them leaning toward the experimental side of jazz, including The Gateway Trio (featuring Dave Holland and John Abercrombie), Directions (with Abercrombie and saxophonist Alex Foster), and New Directions (Abercrombie, with Eddie Gomez on bass). Special Edition – which helped launch the careers of little known musicians like David Murray, Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman, John Purcell and Rufus Reid – remained active into the 1990s, although the project was frequently interrupted by DeJohnette‟s various other collaborative ventures, especially recordings and tours with Keith Jarrett.
DeJohnette has worked extensively with Jarrett as part of a longstanding trio with Gary Peacock. The threesome will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2013.
DeJohnette’s Peace Time won a Grammy in 2009 for Best New Age Album. The album consists of an hour-long, continuous piece of music that eMusic described as “flights of flute, soft hand drumming, and the gently percolating chime of cymbal play, moving the piece along a river of meditative delight.” But the 2009 Grammy is just one many awards that DeJohnette has received over the years, beginning in 1979 with the French Grand Prix Disc and Charles Cros awards. He has figured prominently into readers polls and critics polls conducted by Downbeat and JazzTimes over the past two decades. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of music from Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1991, and was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society‟s Hall of Fame in 2010.
(Bio adapted from DeJohnette’s official website.)
This program is hosted, engineered, produced, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
One of DeJohnette’s latest recording projects is as a member of supergroup Hudson, which is the title of the Motéma release with guitarist John Scofiled, keyboardist John Medeski and bassist Larry Grenadier. DeJohnette and Hudson will be at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall on October 6-7.
Watch DeJohnette play with guitarist John Scofield and keyboardist Larry Goldings in this 2010 live clip.
Watch DeJohnette play with Miles Davis at the Isle of Wight concert in this 1970 live clip.
Watch DeJohnette play with Charles Lloyd’s quintet in this 1966 live clip.
Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman and Hunter colleges in the City University of New York system.