Jack De Johnette – Sound Travels – Golden Beams/E1 46:20 [1/17/12] ****:
(Jack De Johnette – piano tr. 1-7 & 9, – drums – 2-6, 8, – resonating bell 1, – vocal 2, – keyboards 3; Tim Ries – tenor sax 2, 3, 5, 8, – soprano sax 3, 4; Ambrose Akinmusire – trumpet 2, 4, 5;Lional Loueke – guitar 2, 3, 5, 6; Esperanza Spalding – bass 2-6, 8 – vocal 2 & 3; Luisito Quintero – percussion 2, 8, – vocal 2; Bruce Hornsby – vocal 3; Bobby McFerrin – vocal 7; Jason Moran – piano)
Despite years of classical music training on the piano, Jack De Johnette decided fairly early on that his preferred instrument of expression was going to be the drums. And for that, we have been the beneficiary. His latest release Sound Travels gives him the opportunity to indulge in a range of musical ideas and genres on both drums and piano in conjunction with a stellar collaborative cast.
Now in his 70th year, and recently the recipient of a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Fellowship, De Johnette shows no signs of slowing down in his balanced and commanding playing. This outing, however, is not a straight ahead swinger, but rather it has a certain ethereal reflective quality. This is evidenced by the two tunes that open and close the disc, both of which are compositions by De Johnette and feature his piano playing. While neither “Enter Here” nor “Home” are extensive ventures, they symbolize the more contemplative approach to the compositional structure of the entire disc. “Luisito Serena Salsa” is a wonderfully upbeat salsa that features the vocalese of Esperanza Spalding to marvellous effect. There are a couple of other vocal tracks that are equally appealing. First the pop/rock singer/pianist Bruce Hornsby delivers a down-home rendition of “Dirty Ground” and then Bobby McFerrin offers some wordless counterpoint on “Oneness”.
One of Jack De Johnette’s early influences was the late Max Roach, a leading drummer of modern jazz. Roach’s daring vision made drumming not just a matter of keeping time, but one of making music and it is this latter aspect of De Johnette’s work that is on display with this disc. For example on “Sonny Light” written by De Johnette for Sonny Rollins, a calypso beat is infused with some West Africa touches as offered by guitarist Lionel Loueke.The leader does not disappoint those looking for some of that De Johnette swing as evidenced by “New Muse” which also features Tim Ries on soprano sax, and “Indigo Dreamscape” where Jason Moran sits in on piano and again has some fine tenor work by Ries.
This is an audacious and compelling disc.
TrackList: Enter Here; Luisito Serena Salsa; Dirty Ground; New Muse; Sonny Light; Sound Travels; Oneness; Indigo Dreamscape; Home.
A 10-year anniversary of Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society gets a welcome vinyl upgrade.