Jack DeJohnette drums, piano
John Abercrombie guitar, mandolin
Lester Bowie trumpet
Eddie Gomez bass
Recorded June 1978 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
This album was indeed a new direction for drummer Jack DeJohnette, by then an ECM mainstay who with this effort flirted with the free-flowing atmospheres then characteristic of the label’s popular European projects. John Abercrombie—another household name whose amplified strings do wonders for DeJohnette’s impulses—forms, along with Chick Corea veteran Eddie Gomez on bass, a triangular foundation upon which trumpeter Lester Bowie—the album’s shining star—builds his towering sentimentalism. Fresh off the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Nice Guys session, Bowie lays it on thick, eschewing his whimsical asides for straight-on lyric fortitude. One is hard-pressed to keep from sweltering in the “Bayou Fever” that opens this forgiving tale. Abercrombie’s buttery-soft licks seem to adhere the rawer intensities of DeJohnette and Gomez, while Bowie deploys one potent bundle of melody after another. “Where Or Wayne,” a rubato pun anchored by a harder-edged bass, relays moments of ecstatic abandon with majestic guitar solos, expertly played off of by Gomez, who lights a few aesthetic candles of his own. The nebulous imagery of “Dream Stalker” and the old-school virtuosity of “One Handed Woman” make for a kindly pair and leave us with no other recourse than to take shelter in the “Silver Hollow.” Abercrombie goes acoustic in the album’s closer, trading sweeping lines with bass, all the while drowning in DeJohnette’s dawn-like pianism.
A spacious inner current, heir apparent to a straightforward jazz with no strings attached, feeds into every moment of New Directions. The performances are attentively recorded with a present, live feel that gives the drums all the room they need, and us all the sonic candy we crave.