With 2012 barely underway, it looks like it's going to be a year to remember for drum legend Jack DeJohnette. The renowned rhythmic force behind classic recordings from Miles Davis, Charles Lloyd, Keith Jarrettand numerous notable projects of his ownwill receive some well-deserved recognition when he's inducted into the National Endowment for the Arts' Jazz Master Fellowship in January. Crossing the globe to bring his music to admirers around the world, 2012 also marks his 70th birthday. Putting him at an age when many people rest on their laurels and look back at their accomplishments with pride, DeJohnette keeps looking forward as he creates music that jazz fans can look forward to hearing.
Yet another cause for celebration, Sound Travels, is an easy-to-digest, cross-stylistic journey featuring some A-list players. DeJohnette's objective was "to make something that would make people move, to make them relax and forget their troubles." He wanted to "bring a smile" with these songs, which highlight his compositional and performance skills (on piano and drums), and there is, indeed, plenty to smile about.
DeJohnette bookends the album with two beautiful solo piano performancesthe Zen-like "Enter Here" and Abdullah Ibrahim-inspired "Home"but works with an all-star lineup elsewhere, with a few special guests invited to the party. Pianist Jason Moran makes an appearance on "Indigo Dreamscape," first heard on the leader's Parallel Realities (MCA, 1990), while beyond-category vocalist Bobby McFerrin brings his inimitable vocals to the serene and absorbing "Oneness," and Bruce Hornsby drops in to sing on an instantly likeable, odd-metered roots-rock number co-written with DeJohnette, "Dirty Ground."
While these high profile guests will likely bring some greater attention to the project, the band on hand needs no help delivering quality music. The two horns that appear at various times throughout the albumtrumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and saxophonist Tim Riesadd volumes as individuals, prove complementary in terms of blend and balance, and provide contrast in solo styles ("New Muse"). Other strong contributions come from guitarist Lionel Loueke, who puts an African slant on a calypso written in honor of Sonny Rollins ("Sonny Light"), and percussionist Luisito Quintero, who seasons the music with Latin spices ("Salsa for Luisito") and adds to the jam-based vibe on the brief title track. Bassist Esperanza Spalding anchors the group with her buoyant bottom end, but it's her angelically soulful pipes that may garner more attention, as she wordlessly glides along on "Salsa for Luisito."
DeJohnette's drum and piano work is more functional than flashy, reflecting the big-picture wisdom he's always shown, but his taste and talent are always apparent. While the title of this record may or may not have been an intentional double entendre, Sound Travels rings true; whether viewed as a globe-trotting aural odyssey or comfortable sojourn, both qualities make for an enjoyable listen.
Enter Here; Salsa for Luisito; Dirty Ground; New Muse; Sonny Light; Sound Travels; Oneness; Indigo Dreamscapes; Home.
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).
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