Jack DeJohnette is a busy man.
You might think that he would take a little time to bask in the glow of his prestigious Jazz Master Fellowship he received last year from the National Endowment for the Arts, but the man who is known as one of the most influential jazz drummers in the 20th century shows no signs of slowing down.
European tours, stateside gigs, studio recordings, CD releases – not to mention a 70th birthday bash that featured an extraordinary line-up of friends/jazz all stars - have kept DeJohnette breaking new ground as he continues to influence the jazz scene well into the 21st century.
DeJohnette makes a stop in Seattle next week for two nights at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley. Joining DeJohnette will be Ravi Coltrane, Matt Garrison and George Colligna. This is a rare opportunity to see Coltrane and Garrison join forces once again after 20 years when DeJohnette first brought them together to play the music of John Coltrane.
I was able to get a few minutes over the phone with DeJohnette as he was getting ready for a show in Brooklyn in advance of Seattle’s performances at Jazz Alley.
Here is an excerpt of our conversation:
The list of musicians you have worked with reads like a who’s who of jazz legends. At the same time, you have also been credited for helping younger, emerging musicians. Can you give us an example of some of those players that are making a mark?
Sure, on my album “Sound Travels,” you’ll hear Esperanza Spalding, Ambrose Akinmusire and Lionel Loueke just to name a few. There’s also a drummer named Justin Brown, a guitarist Nir Felder and a pianist named Thomas Ehnco that come to mind at the moment.
Both Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison will be on stage during your run at Jazz Alley. What are the ties that these two players bring to this group?
There is a deep connection. I played with John Coltrane and worked with him and Jimmy Garrison [Matthew’s father] so there’s that whole connection there. Actually, I put together this trio 20 years ago. We played a concert in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Museum and we played [John] Coltrane’s music.
What can we expect 20 years later?
This time around Ravi and Matthew have brought material, and their own voices – adding their stories to the jazz legacy. So this night is different in that we’ll be playing all originals and some improvised things as well.
You’ve played Seattle before – most recently with Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke. Do you have any side trips planned while you're out here?
I’m only here for a couple of days so I don’t have much time to see the sights. I’m hoping to spend some time with Bill Frisell if he’s around. Also, I’ll try and check in with kora player Foday Musa Suso,who moved [to Seattle] from Chicago. He’s been playing with Philip Glass for a long time and we did a duet record on my label called “Music from the Hearts of the Masters.”
What do you have planned after your stand at Jazz Alley and concert at the Portland International Jazz Festival?
I have a recording with Italian pianist Antonio Faraò – Joe Lovano is on it with Ira Coleman on bass. Then I’m doing something with my own group up in Pittsburgh and then over at the Kennedy Center. Then I’ll be in Japan with Keith [Jarrett] and Gary Peacock. It’s our 30th anniversary so we’ll be doing a summer tour there. Also, EMC just put out a four-CD Box set of “Special Edition” recordings from ’79 – ’84.
It sounds like you’ve got plenty on your plate – I appreciate your time.
Thanks. Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing the fans out in Seattle – it’s always great to play for them. I just think Seattle is a great city, so it’s always good to be out here.
The Jack DeJohnette Quartet featuring Ravi Coltranes plays Jazz Alley February 19-20 with performances starting at 7:30 p.m. For tickets visit: www.jazzalley.com or call 206-441-9729.