Release date: April 1, 1985
Jack DeJohnette has, of course, been long known as the go-to drummer on practically every Keith Jarrett trio album ever to be released on ECM. But he has also led a phenomenal double life as a composer and bandleader, and his strengths in those capacities—along with his mastery of the kit—are highlighted in this compilation. For intensity of atmosphere, you can’t go wrong with “Bayou Fever.” The opening tune off 1978’s New Directions places him in the esteemed company of trumpeter Lester Bowie, guitarist John Abercrombie, and bassist Eddie Gomez. Against Abercrombie’s surreal backdrop, Bowie’s trumpeting is delirious yet lucid while the band pulls its blues from another dimension. Building tension without release, they sustain their balance over an expanse of marshland, amphibious dreams, and childhood memories. Two cuts from the output of DeJohnette’s Special Edition outfit reveal deeper layers of his craftwork. “One For Eric,” from the band’s 1980 self-titled debut, situates Arthur Blythe (alto saxophone), David Murray (bass clarinet), and Peter Warren (bass) in a classic eruption of creative magma and shows DeJohnette at his most cathartic. As does “The Gri Gri Man” (Tin Can Alley, 1981) at his most atmospheric. Featuring the man of the hour on congas, drums, organ, and timpani, it illustrates distant and arid terrain even as it carries a storm’s worth of rain in the heart.
“To Be Continued,” from the 1981 album of the same name, reshuffles the deck and deals a new hand with guitarist Terje Rypdal and bassist Miroslav Vitous. As one of the most inspired combinations to spring from the mind of producer Manfred Eicher, it couldn’t not be represented here. Rypdal’s blue solar flares, in tandem with Vitous’s joyous extroversions, provide the very substance through which DeJohnette draws his continuous thread. A likeminded masterstroke is the Gateway trio with Abercrombie and bassist Dave Holland. Where the guitarist’s original “Unshielded Desire” (Gateway, 1975) is a duet with DeJohnette that finds the musicians speaking two dialects of the same fervent language, “Blue” (Gateway 2, 1978) swaps drums for piano in a lyrical love letter to time itself.
Taken together, these selections offer a glimpse into a career that continues to evolve yet compresses it into an idol worthy of self-regard. Candid, rooted, and authentic are the names of the game.