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Jack DeJohnette: Colors, Grooves, Golden Beams

By Published: August 14, 2006
AAJ: It sounds fun on the record. People might talk about chemistry a little too much, but I do think the chemistry of this band is special. It sounds like everyone's pretty invigorated.

JD: We just did a gig—well, two gigs. We did a gig in Europe at the Coutances Jazz Festival and then we flew out to L.A. to do a gig, which was John's gig. They told him he could come out with any configuration he wanted, and he said he wanted the Trio Beyond. So we flew straight out there from France to play the U.C.L.A Jazz and Reggae Festival. And you know, since the last time we played, the development [laughing] has just shot up a lot faster. Everyone's just psyched to do it, and I can hear the growth of everybody since then.

AAJ: Larry's pretty great on this record. I really love his bass lines, which work so well with your drumming—you each occupy an area that's very complimentary with the other. He's really all over the organ here and his bit of Rhodes on the beginning of "I Fall in Love Too Easily is wonderful as well. Tell me about Larry—what you like about playing with him, what it is he's best at.

JD: Well Larry is quite an eclectic musician. He's also a great pianist and composer. But he's ridiculous on organ; I think he's expanding the role of the organ, the old Hammond B-3 with the Leslie speaker. Getting colors out of it—it's got those drawbars and you can create a whole bunch of colors. Larry's also incorporating electronics; he's using electronic pedals, loops, computers, samples and all that kind of stuff. So that's in there as well. But Larry also swings his ass off! He's one of the swingingest organists around. And he doesn't repeat his bass lines. If you listen to his harmonic sense, which is very astute, he's always creatively changing his bass lines. And he plays very close to how a bassist feels—sometimes you forget you're listening to an organ bass, because his lines are so hip, and his colors and his chords and his rhythmic thing. Harmonically, rhythmically, melodically—the ball gets passed around. So we're always psyched to play, because we're wanting to see what happens next. Somebody'll play something, and it sets off the other two and gets passed around.

AAJ: Okay, then, the third player in the band is John Scofield. I don't think I've ever heard him in such a broad context. He's got plenty of room to solo, but there's more to it than that. He's playing all sorts of stuff: single-note lines, chordal stuff, freeform exploration, heavy riffing, all in a great variety of tones. Any notions about what you like about playing with him here?

JD: Well, John is a unique innovator and also a very, very distinct voice. When you hear John, you know it's him. Nobody else has a sound like that, or that phrasing on guitar. John has this great combination of funk and sophistication. I think that's the chemistry that all three of us have together, actually. Larry's played with Maceo Parker, and a lot of guys like that—a real cross-section of music. We all really love the blues and we all really love funk and electronic music. And, you know, jazz. So there's this spectrum, shall we say, for lack of a better word, of the many different world cultural influences that jazz takes in.

And so John incorporates all of that. But when he needs to be technical, he can do that, too. He has that slippery, kind of laid-back way that he plays, but when we played those last two gigs, he and Larry both were rippin' off lines [laughing] that were really amazing. It's a great combination with this trio, where we get a chance to really just play for the joy of it, and explore. It stimulates me in what I'll play, but it also stimulates everybody in terms of realizing the amount of freedom we have—along with the discipline. John has a balance of all of that, as far as playing lines. Then there's the electronic stuff that he does, which is very great, and the way we use that in this trio is really great as well. I particularly like the way John and Larry utilize that on things like "Saudades, and "Emergency.

AAJ: That's a big part of what this band does. Those places where it goes off the map—the electronics seem like an important tool to push it in that area.

JD: Yeah. So there are all these different colors. I'm glad we captured the band live; this is a great live band. This recording was done on the next-to-last gig of an almost-three-week tour. That's why the music was at such a high level—because we had been playing this music every night. And it's different every night. I think we captured that magic.

AAJ: The band is very tight on that record. There's plenty of freedom, but the way you transition between tunes, and parts of tunes, like on the sequence of "As One, "Allah Be Praised, and "Saudades, displays a tightness that's very exciting to hear.

JD: Yeah, you don't hear it too often! It's true. Not to say that there aren't other creative musicians out there doing the same thing—I've heard some of them. [ECM head] Manfred [Eicher] was excited about the idea of it, and then when I sent it to him and he heard it, he said, "yeah, this is great, and we have to put this out. So it's great; they're really excited about it and there's this big buzz about it. I hope it continues.

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