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.