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Jack DeJohnette: Colors, Grooves, Golden Beams

By Published: August 14, 2006
AAJ: On bass or guitar?

JD: He's playing the acoustic bass guitar. Actually, we did a label-launching party at Joe's Pub in New York last year, and the results were stunning. Jerome's been involved in quite a few projects with me over the years, and he fits perfectly. He's a great supportive player, he knows how to play a groove, and he can swing. I can go in a lot of different directions with him. So the Hearts of the Masters group is now a trio. We may play one gig in August in Detroit at the World Music Festival. Hopefully, next fall we'll do something; we'd like to get more exposure in the States. It's really fun, creative, uplifting music and you can dance to it or just sit and pat your feet. And it's happy. It's really joyful music. Foday is just such a great spirit.

AAJ: It's a great record. It is happy, but there's nothing saccharine about it.

JD: And you know, I love to play grooves. Aside from swinging, and being abstract, I also love to be in the pocket and make a groove something substantial. And Foday lays down these nice patterns and off we go. It's a nice hookup. We've co-written some things together, too—some new tunes that are not on there that come from our playing together and what inspires us when we play.

And out of that came The Ripple Effect. My son-in-law, Ben Surman, who's actually the son of John Surman, the great saxophonist/composer—he's a musician, he plays saxophone, but he's also an excellent sound engineer; in fact, he's really in demand with a lot of jazz musicians and other people. He's worked with Christian McBride, Jim Hall. He's worked with John Scofield as his sound engineer and tech person and with me and John when we've done some dates here and in Europe.

He's also a great remix engineer; he has great creative sensibilities about remixing, and of course his palate in musical taste is quite broad, like the rest of us. But he has a unique way of putting it together, so we came up with this idea to remix some sessions that were already done, like three or four of the songs from Music From the Hearts of the Masters. Then there's this woman named Marlui Miranda; she's from Brazil and she's quite unique. She can improvise and she writes songs and has a beautiful voice. And then we did one track where it's just Ben and I. Basically, Ben just remixed everything. He'd have some suggestions: he'd take the basic foundation and then build on top of it. And that's Hybrids (Golden Beams, 2005). He rearranges it quite uniquely; I haven't heard anything else on that level that he remixes at. He just happens to be my son-in-law [laughing]. If he wasn't, I'd still say the same thing.

AAJ: Well, I can't imagine anyone hearing his work on Hybrids or The Elephant Sleeps But Still Remembers accusing you of nepotism.

JD: Well, the thing about the Ripple Effect, and remixes in general—you know, there's ambient and techno and all the different names they give the music—they don't play it a lot on radio. So we're in the process of figuring out how to do the Ripple Effect live, which we can do because Ben can do that live. We'd do it with Marlui, or sometimes we'd bring Foday in, and John Surman, depending on when anyone's available. We'll be working on getting more exposure; we've done mixes for clubs and maybe we might even go in and do some clubs. There's no one way to get this music out there. Yeah, we can stream it on my website, and on MySpace, but it's a little harder with this music to get people tuned in to it. Once people hear it, they love it.

So let's just say we're planting seeds with this music and with the label. And I'm doing smaller projects. Trio Beyond was a bigger project, and as I have a good working relationship with ECM, we have a thing where if I come up with something that I think, and that Manfred thinks, will work on the label—we agree on that and continue to work together. I work with him on the Keith Jarrett projects, so we've been in touch with each other over the years. So it's a nice kind of open setup here. I'm working right now on another relaxation CD, an extension, maybe, of the Om one, but it'll probably have a different name. We also have a duet project that's been sitting around for a while with [percussionist] Don Alias and myself called Welcome Blessing. You know, he passed away recently, so I want to do something really good with that to pay tribute.

All of the CDs on the label have gotten really positive reviews. The praise is still coming in for The Elephant. So I'm glad it's all happening.

AAJ: Well, that's the CD we haven't discussed—your new duet album with Bill Frisell, The Elephant Sleeps But Still Remembers, a live set from 2001.

JD: Well, Bill and I have actually known each other for a long time, but we never got the chance to play together too much. But [clarinetist] Don Byron, who's a good friend of mine, and a neighbor who lives up here, did a recording called Romance With the Unseen (Blue Note, 1999) with [bassist] Drew Gress and myself, and Bill and I got the chance to actually record and play together for a number of days. We did some live concerts with Don to help promote the CD—we played again pretty recently on a Tim Ries CD. You know Tim Ries—he's the saxophonist with the Rolling Stones. Great player and composer.

But prior to that, Bill and I had wanted to play together. So the opportunity came up while I was on tour with Keith Jarrett in the Northwest. John Gilbreath, who promotes the Earshot Festival in Seattle, Washington—since Bill and I were both there at the same time and I had the day off—gave us a day in a small theater to perform. We never rehearsed anything, except maybe "After the Rain. Maybe one other tune. But the rest of it, everything else on there, was improvised on the spot. This engineer, Sascha [Von Oertzen], recorded it. And, you know, the recording sat around for a while, and I sent Bill a copy of it. I listened to it, and said to Bill last year, "hey man, listen to that—I think there's some good stuff. Would you and your label mind me putting it out on Golden Beams? He said, "yeah, sounds great.

Trio Beyond: Larry Goldings, Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield

Then I thought, "well, it sounds nice, but it needs something else. Then I called in Ben, and said, "you know, take some liberties here with this. Add some ambient stuff—let's round it out a little bit. So Ben came in and just did beautiful work with it. He added some bass on "The Elephant at the beginning, which really captured the feel of what it was about, that sort of slow-moving feeling, the way the elephant goes. Then I listened to all the pieces and gave them titles. So I came up with all the titles. Except Ben came up with "One Tooth Shuffle. I love "Entranced Androids, "Ode to South Africa, and "Cartune Riots. So we delve into acoustic and electronic stuff, and it's quirky—it's a quirky CD, but I think it holds together. We're going to do a small tour in October, joined, again, by Jerome Harris. So that should be fun.

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