Reviews by J Hunter
Five bright new arrivals and proof that everything old can become new again:
It’s no surprise that Jack DeJohnette still kicks ass at age 70: As Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes have proven, the jazzers who age the best are the drummers. But on “Sound Travels,” it’s how DeJohnette kicks ass – and, believe it or not, it ain’t on drums! Yes, he does get behind the kit on this collection of nine originals, all written or co-written by DeJohnette. Most of the backbeat heroics, though, go to percussionist Luisito Quintero, who completes the Latin feel infused in tracks like the sensual “Indigo Dreamscapes,” the East-meets-West-and-goes-South bop of “New Muse” and the African/Cuban crossover title track. But for the most part, DeJohnette eschews his famed rolling-thunder attack in favor of making space for an all-star band featuring bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, guitarist Lionel Loueke, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, reed wizard Tim Ries and a heretofore-unknown keyboardist named… Jack DeJohnette! Yup, the heir to Tony Williams’ legacy plays beautiful, evocative piano – most notably backing Bobby McFerrin’s glistening vocalese on the meditative three-hander “Oneness” and all by himself on the whisper-soft coda “Home.” DeJohnette even plays piano on the twisting NOLA-survives anthem “Dirty Ground,” leaving co-author Bruce Hornsby nothing to do but sing! Take heart, fellow members of the Silver Headed Society! You’re never too old to re-invent yourself!