Family, friendship, musical camaraderie: all part of the latest from Jack DeJohnette.
Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane, Matthew Garrison – In Movement [TrackList follows] ECM 2488, 54:21 [5/6/16] ****1/2:
(Jack DeJohnette – drums, piano, electronic percussion; Ravi Coltrane – tenor, soprano and sopranino saxophone; Matthew Garrison – electric bass, electronics)
What would the jazz world be without drummer, composer and forward-thinking Jack DeJohnette? Certainly a less interesting music universe, that’s for sure. He’s played hard-bop, avant-garde (he was an important member of the Chicago improvisational scene which led to the formation of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), fusion (with Charles Lloyd and then Miles Davis), and has collaborated with countless artists (Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, John Abercrombie, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, John Scofield and a host of others).
DeJohnette has had a lengthy sojourn on ECM, and his latest for that label is the 54-minute eight-track In Movement. For this late 2015 studio date, DeJohnette pulled together a stellar trio. DeJohnette is heard on drums, piano and electronic percussion; Ravi Coltrane is on tenor, soprano and sopranino saxophones (this is his first ECM-related project); and Matthew Garrison is on electric bass and contributes electronics (also the first time he’s done something for ECM). This is a multi-connected venture. DeJohnette briefly performed with John Coltrane (Ravi’s famous father) and bassist Jimmy Garrison (Matthew’s father), who was also in Coltrane’s quartet. These three have been on stage at various times and bring their interaction to the forefront on this CD.
In Movement has a searching, questing quality, which shapes and lifts through the eight pieces: two cuts credited to the trio; two DeJohnette originals; a Coltrane/DeJohnette co-write; and three covers. There is a framework for each tune, but they all have transformative sections, imaginative elements and an individualist aesthetic which mirrors DeJohnette’s personality and the jazz-ensconced soundscapes common on many ECM releases. The title track (penned by all three players) has a modern, meditative nature less about melody and more about contrasting chords. Lightly buzzing electronics form a bottom layer while Coltrane ascends via his soprano sax. Garrison produces a shifting, rhythmic foundation (with occasional, guitar-like chord sweeps) while DeJohnette supplies intuitive tiers of beat and groove. There’s an even more contemporary tone to “Two Jimmys” (the only other track ascribed to all three musicians). “Two Jimmys” is a combined tribute to Jimmy Garrison as well as rock icon Jimi Hendrix. There is a penetrating but flexible groove which manages to link Hendrix (in particular his Band of Gypsys phase) and Coltrane’s mid to late 60s output (slower tempos, more intensity, and more use of percussion). The mix of electronics and Garrison’s guitar-esque electric bass formulates a rock-fusion feel, while DeJohnette’s steady-but-changeable fills and snare work impart a jazz/rock approach (akin to King Crimson’s Bill Bruford). Coltrane slips in and out with short bursts of tenor sax.
Other pieces also act as homage to friends and family. The most gradual and atmospheric composition is “Lydia,” DeJohnette’s musical ode to his wife. You can tell how much love, adoration and honor DeJohnette has for his life partner while listening to this. There are introspective instances; upfront bits; slices of sparkle and optimism; and splashes of color everywhere, from Coltrane’s sheened soprano sax to DeJohnette’s warm cymbals; and Garrison’s cycling bass lines. On the flip side is the concentrated duo number, “Rashied,” a 5:48 accolade to the late, illustrious drummer Rashied Ali, an important Coltrane associate during Coltrane’s free jazz-tinted late period. Coltrane underscores his lineage as he blazes on sax, providing blistering solos, while DeJohnette sets a searing stride. It’s nearly impossible to contemplate how just two musicians on sax and drums can maintain such a vigorous momentum.
There are other surprises during In Movement. The threesome commence with an extended, 6:51 version of John Coltrane’s “Alabama,” which Coltrane wrote as a reaction to the 1963 white-supremacist bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. Garrison, Coltrane and DeJohnette retain the tune’s emotional essence but utilize a new incline with adjunct, subtle electronics and Garrison’s distorted electric bass. Coltrane’s gently swelling tenor sax is a veritable highlight. More jazz history appears with Miles Davis and Bill Evans’ “Blue in Green,” (from Davis’ 1959 Kind of Blue LP) a measured, methodical DeJohnette/Coltrane duet, where DeJohnette switches to piano (his first instrument before swapping to drums). The duet becomes a trio offering when Garrison furnishes discreet, low-pitched bass during the final minute, nearer to muted noise than bass chords. The most unexpected cover is “Serpentine Fire,” from the Earth, Wind & Fire catalog, which the trio turns into a stretched-out, nine-minute groove experience. There is a correlation, by the way. DeJohnette performed with EWF founder Maurice White in an early DeJohnette trio, with DeJohnette on piano and White on drums. On “Serpentine Fire,” Garrison’s electric bass is both firm and elastic, proving he’s got both jazz and rock chops on four strings. Between Coltrane’s lithe sax, Garrison’s stimulating bass and DeJohnette’s pliant percussion, this elongated presentation is a standout. Garrison, DeJohnette and Coltrane close with DeJohnette’s piano-based “Soulful Ballad,” a wistful and wonderful way to conclude, with an accent on melody and lyricism.
TrackList: Alabama; In Movement; Two Jimmys; Blue in Green; Serpentine Fire; Lydia; Rashied; Soulful Ballad.