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Live Review

Jack DeJohnette and John Surman at the Seattle Art Museum

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Jack DeJohnette and John Surman
Earshot Jazz Festival
Seattle Art Museum
October 26, 2002

The evening began with a kind of mood piece. With a background of ambient sound programmed into a sequencer and English reeds player John Surman complementing with bass clarinet, Jack DeJohnette read poetry by Walt Whitman, poetry that gave the listener a sense of awareness of the environment. Following his reading, DeJohnette then seated himself behind his drum set and triggered a pan-African rhythm from his midi percussion kit then proceeded to lay into the pocket with a backbeat. Surman improvised at first on his bass clarinet then later switched to saxophone playing intense, intricate runs often outside of the musical structure with DeJohnette complementing him. After thirty minutes or so, this first piece ended with the two musicians gradually easing back and allowing the ambient background music to once again become more prominent. The first set ended with a performance of "After The Rain" by John Coltrane with DeJohnette playing piano demonstrating that he is as skilled a pianist as he is a drummer.
Throughout the evening DeJohnette and Surman improvised at times playing with full musical intensity and other times playing more ambient musical passages. Surman alternated between bass clarinet, soprano, tenor and bass saxophone, and, in the final piece, midi stick in which DeJohnette also played midi percussion pads with his hands utilizing programmed sounds imitating djembes, congas, and tablas. Surman consistently pushed the limits of the musical structure with the two musicians at times approaching avante-garde territory, while DeJohnette played with a fiery intensity that was reminiscent of the "Lost Quintet" of Miles Davis's Bitches Brew era. As intricate and outside as Surman's playing was, DeJohnette's playing that night could have been compared with his playing on Miles's Fillmore albums of 1970.

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