Jack DeJohnette – Sound Travels

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Review written by: Raul da Gama

Jack DeJohnette is not just one of the finest and important drummers playing today, but one of the most important musicians and composers as well. He has been a charter member of Keith Jarrett’s legendary trio and he has left an indelible mark there. He was one of the earliest musicians—apart from Charles Mingus—to recognise the importance of Native American music and like Don Pullen, wrote a mighty album inspired by the music of the Seneca Nation, Music for the Fifth World (Manhattan/Blue Note, 1992), which predates Don Pullen’s masterly, Sacred Common Ground (Blue Note, 1995). Dates are often misleading, but DeJohnette’s spiritual nature certainly suggests that he was fascinated with music that was channelled by a greater power—something he always spoke of in the context of John Coltrane, both as musician and human being—that it is hard to imagine that DeJohnette is not motivated, as Coltrane was, by a deep sense of soul.

Despite the soulfulness in his oeuvre DeJohnette’s music is never sombre; nor is he flippant. Here he strikes a balance like the music of ecstatic performers like Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his unique qawwali performers who pursue the Sufi tradition of music originating out of Pakistan. Such ecstasy abounds on Sound Travels, an absolutely extraordinary vehicle for DeJohnette’s advanced musical ideas. Emotionally the album inhabits a sort of sacred ground and the music, resounds like dusky Vespers that begin with the doxology-like “Enter Here”. It is almost as if the music, with its resonating bells, is a call to prayer; or certainly meditation. And this literally opens the door to DeJohnette’ sound scape. This time round, the drummer makes a sojourn not only through his most familiar, African American world, but opens the doors of perception into a world that incorporates the Afro-Cuban adventure as well.

DeJohnette is superb throughout; a sublime rhythmist, the drummer plays more like a percussion colorist, introducing splashes in the cymbals to break up or punctuate the shuffling down beat of an Afro-Caribbean nature. DeJohnette tempers all of this with his soulful, rolling preaching on the piano and this is as full of yearning for the coming of a beautiful state of aching bliss. The music on the album reaches elevated levels because DeJohnette has made inspired choices as far as his ensemble is concerned. First he has the inimitable trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, who plays as if he were launching an aria akin to a Hymn of the Universe sung like fire on a mountain. Then there is guitarist Lionel Loueke… Few musicians are closer to the Earthy goddesses and conjure the spirit of an Earth-Mother in their playing. Saxophonist Tin Reis joins Akinmusire in his Mosaic encounters with the spirits, while Luisito Quintero keeps things grounded with music awash with viscous colours on a dripping musical canvas.

All through the proceedings DeJohnette is joined by the sublime Esperanza Spaulding on bass and she keeps a steady reticent beat. The one chart with Bobby McFerrin (“Oneness”) and the utterly spectacular vocals by Bruce Hornsby on “Dirty Ground” elevate the album to sublime levels.

Track Listing: 1. Enter Here; 2. Salsa for Luisito; 3. Dirty Ground; 4. New Music; 5. Sonny Light; 6. Sound Travels; 7. Oneness; 8. Indigo Dreamscapes; 9. Home.

Personnel: Jack DeJohnette: drums (1 – 6, 8, 9), resonating bells (1), acoustic piano (1 – 7, 9), vocals (2); Esperanza Spalding: acoustic bass (2 – 4, 8), electric bass (5, 6), vocals (2); Bruce Hornsby: vocals (2); Bobby McFerrin: vocals (7); Lionel Loueke: electric guitar (2, 3, 6), acoustic guitar-un-credited (5); Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet (2, 4); Luisito Quintero: percussion (2 – 8), vocals (2); Tim Ries: soprano saxophone (3, 4), tenor saxophone (3, 8); Jason Moran: acoustic piano (8).

Jack DeJohnette’s website: www.jackdejohnette.com

Label: Entertainment One

Release date: January 2012

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