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Jack DeJohnette: Music We Are

John Kelman By

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Since the inception of his Golden Beams Productions imprint, Jack DeJohnette has been busy releasing music ranging from the meditational Music in the Key of Ohm (Golden Beams, 2005) and world music-inflected Music from the Hearts of the Masters (Golden Beams, 2005) to the more decidedly improvisational The Elephant Sleeps But Still Remembers (Golden Beams, 2006). A freedom of spirit infuses all his releases, but it's been over a decade since the veteran drummer has released an album as a leader that fits squarely into the jazz category.

Still, even more decidedly jazz-centric albums like the open-ended Oneness (ECM, 1997) and career-defining Special Edition (ECM, 1980) are far from predictable. Music We Are may appear, on the surface, to be yet another in a long line of piano trio records released every year—not that there's anything wrong with that—but in the hands of DeJohnette, pianist Danilo Pérez and bassist John Patitucci, the music not only transcends the expectations of the format, but stretches the boundaries of music, plain and simple. A combination of appealing writing, spare and dark-hued free-play, and an unmistakable sense of fun imbue Music We Are—three qualities made even clearer on the 20-minute "making of" DVD that's included with the CD.

The three have intersected on various projects over the years: DeJohnette played on Perez's 1992, eponymous Novus debut as a leader; DeJohnette and Patitucci have been Steve Khan's partners of choice dating from the guitarist's Got My Mental (Evidence, 1996) through to the outstanding Borrowed Time (Tone Center, 2007); and, of course, Perez and Patitucci have been one-half of saxophonist Wayne Shorter's empathic quartet since the turn of the century, heard on albums including the startlingly simpatico Beyond the Sound Barrier (Verve, 2005). The same chemistry that the various permutations have brought to other projects is only magnified when the three are brought together in the same room, at the same time.

DeJohnette has recorded "Seventh D" before, but here it's divided into two movements that amplify the sheer abandon this trio is capable of, especially "2nd Movement," which is oblique and slightly aggressive, but functions at a deeply focused level of interaction. "Tango African" is, on the other hand, more approachable. DeJohnette and Patitucci overdub the melody, on melodica and electric bass respectively, over their loose but rock-solid foundation of drums and acoustic bass, gradually moving into a groove-laden trade-off between the two. Both demonstrate the considerable stylistic territory that Music We Are covers, without feeling overly considered. Eclectic and esoteric, it's an album that celebrates the cross-pollination of music from the earth's four corners while revering the jazz tradition that permits music to be made on such fertile ground, with abstract classicism, tinges of Gamelan and folkloric innocence intersecting and driving the music to unexpected and joyous places.

A combination of original music and one relatively obscure Latin cover, Music We Are brings three friends together for a recording that, hopefully, signifies the beginning of a longer-term partnership.

Track Listing: Tango African; Earth Prayer; Seventh D., 1st Movement; Seventh D., 2nd Movement; Soulful Ballad; Earth Speaks; Cobilla; Panama Viejo; White; Ode to MJQ; Michael.

Personnel: Jack DeJohnette: drums, melodica; John Patitucci: acoustic and electric bass; Danilo Perez: piano, keyboards.

Title: Music We Are | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Golden Beams

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