Born: August 9, 1942 Primary Instrument: Drums
Born in Chicago in 1942, Jack De Johnette is widely regarded as one of jazz music's greatest drummers. Music appreciation flourished in De Johnette's family. He studied classical piano from age four until fourteen before beginning to play drums with his high school concert band.and taking private piano lessons at the Chicago conservatory of music. De Johnette credits his uncle, Roy l. Wood Sr., who was one of the most popular jazz DJ's in the South side of Chicago, later vice president of the National Network of Black Broadcasters, as the person who initially inspired him to pursue music.
In his early years on the Chicago scene, he led his own groups and was equally in demand as a pianist and as a drummer. He played R & B, hard bop, and avant-garde and was active with the experimentalists of the AACM in its early days, with the likes of founder Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman. In 1966, he drummed alongside Rashied Ali in the John Coltrane Quintet. International recognition came with his tenure in the Charles Lloyd Quartet, one of the first jazz groups to receive cross- over attention, also alerting the world to Keith Jarrett's skills.
Jack De Johnette has collaborated with most major figures in jazz history. Some of the great talents he has worked with are John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Sun Ra, Jackie McLean, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Keith Jarrett, Chet Baker, George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Ron Carter, Lee Morgan, Charles Lloyd, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter and Eddie Harris, who is responsible for convincing De Johnette to stick with drums because he heard De Johnette's natural talent.
It was in 1968 that De Johnette joined Miles Davis's group in time for the epochal upheaval marked by Bitches Brew, an album that changed the direction of jazz. In his autobiography, Miles Davis said, Jack De Johnette gave me a deep groove that I just loved to play over. Jarrett soon followed De Johnette into the Davis group, and the drummer's first ECM recording, the duet “Rutya and Daitya” was made in 1971. Working with Miles also brought about collaborations with John McLaughlin, Chick Corea and Dave Holland.
In 1968 he recorded his first album as a leader on the Milestone label, called “The De Johnette Complex”, where Jack played melodica along with his mentor Roy Haynes on drums. In the early 70's he recorded “Have You Heard” in Japan and two albums for Prestige, called “Sorcery” and “Cosmic Chicken.” These early sessions united Jack with Gary Peacock, Bennie Maupin, Stanley Cowell, Miroslav Vitous, Eddie Gomez, Alex Foster and Peter Warren.
Jack began to record as a leader for ECM, with each of his successive groups Directions , New Directions , and Special Edition making important contributions to the evolution of jazz. The New Directions band featured two musicians who would have long-term associations with De Johnette: John Abercrombie and Lester Bowie. A friend from Chicago days, Bowie played intermittently with De Johnette until the end of his life. Most notably, Lester and Jack collaborated on a duo album called “Zebra,” which was a world beat influenced video soundtrack and CD. Abercrombie continued to work with De Johnette in the Gateway Trio , along with Dave Holland. Special Edition , with its rotating front line, helped introduce the sounds of David Murray, Rufus Reid, Howard Johnson, Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman, Greg Osby, Michael Caine, Lonnie Plaxico, Gary Thomas and John Purcell to a wider audience. De Johnette has recorded as a leader on Columbia , Landmark, MCA/GRP, and Toshiba/EMI/Blue Note, but the bulk of his recordings are on the ECM label.
While continuing to lead his own projects and bands, De Johnette has also been a 20 year member of the immensely popular Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack De Johnette trio. De Johnette has appeared on more ECM albums than any other musician; his numerous recordings for the label display his subtle, powerful playing and the ‘melodic' approach to drums and cymbals that makes his touch instantly recognizable.
Jack is also known for his cutting edge collaborations; his “Parallel Realities” CD, with Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny toured successfully and received much acclaim. Another major collaboration was a CD called, “Music for the Fifth World,” inspired by Jack's studies with a Seneca native elder, named Grandmother Twylah Nitsch. This project brought together the likes of Vernon Reid, Will Calhoun, John Scofield, traditional native american singers, Michael Cain, and Lonnie Plaxico. Most recently, he has also performed and recorded with Bobby McFerrin, Don Byron, Danilo Perez and Gonzalo Rubalcalba.
Jack has Received many awards for his music, including, “New Directions” which received the prestigious French Grand Prix du Disque, Charles Cros award in 1979. “Album, Album” and “Special Edition” both won album of the year in the annual Downbeat readers' polls. “Audio-Visualscapes” became album of the year in the Downbeat annual critics' poll 1989. “Parallel Realities” won album of the year in Japan . In 1991, “Earth Walk” won album of the year and recording of the year in Japan . Jack has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berkley College of Music in Boston in 1991. There is an extensive list of awards for drumming, including at least 14 years of the Downbeat polls, the NY Jazz awards, and the Jazz Central on line awards along with many international awards.
De Johnette's drumming, though originally influenced by masters including Max Roach, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Art Taylor, Rashied Ali, Paul Motian, Tony Williams, and Andrew Cyrelle, has long drawn on sources beyond “jazz.” Thirty years ago, he was already describing his work as “multi-directional music.”
“As a child I listened to all kinds of music and I never put them into categories. I had formal lessons on piano and listened to opera, country and western music, rhythm and blues, jazz, swing, whatever. To me, it was all music and 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.”
As well as his previous credentials, De Johnette has also composed soundtracks for both TV and video. These include a soundtrack in collaboration with Pat Metheny for a PBS play called “Lemon Sky”; a soundtrack for a documentary called “City Farmers” by Meryl Joseph and a video production with fellow percussionist Don Alias on Homespun tapes, “Talking drummers”, which includes a documentary that was made of the whole process. Jack also enjoyed a cameo appearance as a member of the “Alligator Blues Band” in the Blues Brothers 2000 movie.
Beyond his own groups, some of De Johnette's most wide- open playing can be heard in his recordings of spontaneously improvised music with Keith Jarrett (“Always Let Me Go”, “Inside Out”, and “Changeless”); John Surman (“Invisible Nature”, “The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon,” and the transitional sequences in Surman's music for reeds, drums, piano and brass ensemble, “Free and Equal”); Michael Cain and Steve Gorn (“Dancing With Nature Spirits”); and Don Alias, Michael Cain, and Jerome Harris (“Oneness”).
De Johnette continues his ongoing visionary projects, including release of his new “Resonating Bells” instruments in collaboration with cymbal manufacturers, Sabian;forming a group celebrating the works of Jack's friend and master drummer Tony Williams, featuring John Scofield and Larry Goldings; and the first release, “Music in the key of Om” on his newly launched record label, “Golden Beams Productions.”
Keep checking the website for the latest updates on Jack De Johnette.
Jack DeJohnette, Sound Travels (eOne, 2012)
Jack DeJohnette Group, Live at Yoshi's 2010 (Golden Beams, 2011)
Jack DeJohnette, Music We Are (Golden Beams, 2009)
Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette, Setting Standards: New York Sessions (ECM, 2008)
Jack DeJohnette/Bill Frisell, The Elephant Sleeps But Still Remembers (Golden Beams, 2009)
Jack DeJohnette/Fodo Musa Suso, Music From the Hearts of the Masters (Golden Beams, 2005)
Trio Beyond, Saudades (ECM, 2005)
Jack DeJohnette, Music in the Key of OM (Golden Beams, 2005)
Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette, Always Let Me Go (ECM, 2002)
John Surman/Jack DeJohnette, Invisible Nature (ECM, 2002)
Jack DeJohnette, Oneness (ECM, 1997)
Herbie Hancock, The New Standard (Verve, 1997)
Jack DeJohnette, Music For the Fifth World (Manhattan, 1992)
Jack DeJohnette, Parallel Realities (MCA, 1990)
Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition, Audio Visualscapes (Impulse!, 1988)
Jack DeJohnette, Special Edition (ECM, 1980)
Pat Metheny, 80/81 (ECM, 1980)
Mick Goodrick, In Pas(s)ing (ECM, 1979)
Jack DeJohnette, New Directions (ECM, 1978)
Ralph Towner, Batik (ECM, 1978)
Jack DeJohnette's Directions, New Rags (ECM, 1977)
Kenny Wheeler, Gnu High (ECM, 1976)
John Abercrombie, Timeless (ECM, 1974)
Miles Davis, Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970)
Bill Evans, At the Montreux Jazz Festival (Verve, 1968)
Charles Lloyd, Dream Weaver (Atlantic, 1966)
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