LIVE: The Jack DeJohnette Trio @ The Egg, 12/9/16
Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Albert Brooks
At The Egg’s Swyer Theatre on Friday evening, J Hunter – host of “Jazz2K” on WVCR-FM and regular Nippertown contributor – was the surprise emcee of the show (a surprise even to him), and just prior to the headliner’s performance, he had the honor of bestowing upon Jack DeJohnette the award as the Jazz Journalists Association’s Drummer of the Year award.
The drummer (and Hudson Valley resident) graciously accepted the trophy – his third from the JJA, by the way – and explained to the audience that he was simply looking to “explore and create different things.”
Then he did what no other Drummer of the Year honoree is likely to do. He sauntered across the stage, sat down not behind the drum kit, but rather at the grand piano and launched into a repeating pattern of shimmering glissandos that would have made Philip Glass proud.
Yeah, the Drummer of the Year played for at least 10 minutes before he hit a drum.
Drums. Piano. Whatever. DeJohnette commands respect.
I first saw DeJohnette in action nearly 50 years ago, when my dad took me to Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, where DeJohnette was hammering away at the kit with the Charles Lloyd Quartet. I was just a wee lad at the time, but it was the concert that made me fall in love with jazz.
Fast forward to The Egg last weekend… On that opening number Ravi Coltrane slid into the mix in meditative mode on soprano sax, followed by Matthew Garrison firing up his five-string electric bass, shot through electronic filters triggered by his foot pedals and laptop.
Clearly, the 74-year-old DeJohnette is indeed exploring new things rather than resting on his considerable laurels.
The 65-minute performance was a master class – spacey free-form stuff, avant-funk, bruising fusion and thoroughly modern (or post-modern, depending on where you want to draw the line) jazz.
It was, at times, challenging, clamorous, clattering and cacophonous. And, yeah, a few audience members slipped out the doors after some of the more raw and unbridled moments.
But just when you thought that you were paying an exorbitant price to hear free jazz, DeJohnette slipped back over to the piano and coaxed an almost impossibly tender duet rendition of the Miles Davis/Bill Evans ballad “Blue in Green,” with Coltrane subtly slipping in with an intimate, whispering performance.
As mesmerizing as the Jack DeJohnette Trio was, the Indo-Pak Coalition nearly stole the show with their opening 65-minute set. Bandleader/saxman Rudresh Mahanthappa, explained that the trio was preparing to record a new album. But that wasn’t what we were going to hear them play. No. Instead, he said it was a night of “helping us say goodbye to some old music.”
And they served up a mesmerizing fire-brand of jazz blended with eastern Indian roots music, with all four selections drawn from their 2008 album Apti. Opening with the album’s whisper-to-a-scream title track, the band also fired up “Adana” (Mahanthappa’s sublime alto horn shifting effortlessly from mournful to sinuously seductive), the herky-jerky, clattering math-jazz of “IIT” (featuring the nimble and versatile drummer/tabla player Dan Weiss) and a cover of Ravi Shankar’s “Vandanaa Trayee” (with guitarist Rez Abbasi leading the way through the rugged but righteous raga terrain).
Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette