Turning 70 and being awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship would be enough to make 2012 a special year for Jack DeJohnette, but Sound Travels transcends mere celebration of the veteran drummer/pianist/bandleader's broad swath of accomplishments since emerging, in the mid-1960s, with saxophonist Charles Lloyd
His first album to equitably balance piano and drumsincluding the meditative "Enter Here" and South African/gospel-tinged "Home," solo piano pieces which bookend the set, DeJohnette actually plays piano on more tracks (eight) then drums (six)would also be enough to render Sound Travels noteworthy in his discography. But with a core group of younger stars, including two still in their twentiesGrammy Award-winning bassist Esperanza Spalding
to pen and sing the uplifting lyrics to what ultimately became the post-Katrina "Dirty Ground."
Sound Travels' brief title track captures the village atmosphere producer Robert Sadin encouraged during the recording sessions, by bringing the musicians together in a small room to work on finding their collective groove, while "Oneness" revisits a track originally performed by a different trioGateway
assumes the piano chair on a breezy rework of Parallel Realities' "Indigo Dreamscapes," while "Salsa for Luisito" is a highlight for the entire core sextetAkinmusire soaring over a dance-ready groove, Spalding's soft vocal improv meshing with a layered, three-part harmony vocal from the bassist, Quintero and DeJohnette, and the drummer laying down a piano track that makes clear his choice to keep the instrument secondary in his career has been just that: a choice.
As he heads into his eighth decade on the planet and approaches his sixth in music, DeJohnette is clearly healthy, happy and on a creative roll. Sound Travels is a powerful celebration, culmination and affirmation of an artist who may be paying it forward to his younger players, but remains the humble and appreciative reciprocal recipient on a collaborative date where there's little to prove but plenty to say.
Track Listing: Enter Here; Salsa for Luisito; Dirty Ground; New Muse; Sonny Light; Sound Travels; Oneness; Indigo Dreamscapes; Home.
Personnel: Jack DeJohnette: piano (1-7, 9), drums (2-6, 8), resonating bell (1), vocal (2), keyboards (3); Tim Ries: tenor saxophone (2, 3, 5, 8), soprano saxophone (3, 4); Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet (2, 4, 5); Lionel Loueke: guitar (2, 3, 5, 6); Esperanza Spalding: bass (2-6, 8), vocal (2, 3); Luisito Quintero: percussion (2-8), vocal (2); Bruce Hornsby: vocal (3); Bobby McFerrin: vocal (7); Jason Moran: piano (8).