Which Jack DeJohnette
is best known? The subtle sticksmith at the heart of Keith Jarrett
's Standards Trio, perhaps? Probably the heavyweight hitter driving electric-era Miles Davis
' '70s sonic brew. Maybe the percussive upstart propelling Charles Lloyd
to crossover flower-power fame? Or even the fearless bandleader behind the ever-thrilling Special Edition band ...
At age 81, DeJohnette can (still) fairly claim to be the most in-demand jazz drummer on the planet. But even the most studious acolyte might furrow their brow at Sorcery
(1974, Prestige), the drummer's third release as sole leaderan erratic, out-there set which betrays the heady milieu it dates from ("Special thanks to the snake handler," notes the back cover). Doubtless long out of print, and going for silly money on Discogs, purists and converts will applaud Craft Recordings new all-analogue vinyl reissue, mastered by the ever-busy Kevin Gray for the Jazz Dispensary Top Shelf series.
This witches' brew is bottled in two distinct doses, with the bulk of side A's quintet set consumed by the witless, 14-minute sprawl of "Sorcery #1." A demonic scale and ominous, thundering toms set a melodramatic horror-show vibe, but sadly not much happens in the movie aheada simple, single-chord modal vamp in the post-Miles mode. John Abercrombie
takes a long spindly, snakey rock-god solo, before clumsy-sounding, chiming guitar harmonics announce Bennie Maupin
's turn. The brew gradually heats to boiling point as the leader makes his presence feltalthough this exchange feels increasingly combative, rather than collaborative. Worse, DeJohnette's drums feel muffled and hollowed, a victim of poor micing which no fancy remaster can solve. Indeed, when we come off the gas for Dave Holland
's characteristically gutsy showcase, it sounds a little as if the bassist is playing underwater.
Straight-up side-closer "The Rock Thing" is an unremarkable four-minute rock-funk vamp which could be a Jack Johnson
offcut, with Abercrombie reduced to doubling the bass riff in the distance while second six-string slinger Mick Goodrick
and there is no other word for itcharmlessly shreds a tasteless torrent of overdriven noodles, failing to fall back even as Maupin steps up for his turn. But before that comes "The Right Thing," a bizarrely dated cacophony of Shakespearean voices grandiosity repeating "The time has come" over and over again, before someone declares in a pantomime voice "Sorry, you've reached the wrong number." Indeed, whatever address this was aiming at, it got lost in the mail.
Things get weirder still on Side B, which strips things down to a trio, albeit one with overt (if primitive) overdubbing and instrument-swapping, with DeJohnette himself dabbling on the keyboard and sax. Things are again grounded by a dangerously ambitious centrepiece, the six-part, 14-minute "The Reverend King Suite," which is simultaneously more diverting and more frustrating than anything that has come before. A response to John Coltrane
's spiritual exploration ("Reverend King" from Cosmic Music
1968, Impulse!), the ragged patchwork begins with hippie-ish chanting before Michael Fellerman
's skirting, childish, keys solo over Holland's bass drones and percussive twinkles. Thankfully at this session, recorded two months later in May '74, DeJonette's drums are notably crisper and higher in the mix, dancing over the kit as the suite slowly finds focus. The audio clarity given to his spirited saxophone solowhich crudely blurts and spurts, overdubbed alongside Fellerman's turn on tromboneis however perhaps a mixed blessing.
The side continues with the throwaway "Four Levels of Joy"a nursery rhyme for keys, "metaphone 1" and drumsbefore the closer, paradoxically the most simply satisfying thing on the record, and therefore the most perplexing of all. A groovy, trippy psych-funk gem, anchored by a tight, hummable hook, "Epilog" serves a tantalising taste of a very different album this exceedingly able group of musicians could have made, had they chosen.
Sorcery, No. 1;
The Right Time;
The Rock Thing;
The Reverend King Suite: Reverend King/Obstructions/The Fatal Shot/Mourning/Unrest/New Spirits on the Horizon;
Four Levels of Joy;
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