Grammy winner Jack DeJohnette to play at UMass Fine Arts Center

Date: 10/30/2014

AMHERST – If there is such a thing as jazz royalty, this concert offers an ample supply. Across a 50-year career, 2012 NEA Jazz Master and Grammy Award winner Jack DeJohnette has blazed a trail as one of a handful of the most innovative drummers in jazz history.

The Jack DeJohnette Trio performs at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) Fine Arts Center’s (FAC) Bowker Auditorium on Nov. 21 at 8 p.m.

The trio features saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and electric bassist Matthew Garrison.

DeJohnette played with Ravi’s father, music icon John Coltrane, in the 1960s. He also played a Coltrane gig with Matt’s dad, Jimmy Garrison, an outstanding bass player who rose to fame in the Coltrane band. It was twenty years ago when DeJohnette brought Ravi and Matt together for the first time to perform the music of John Coltrane at The Brooklyn Museum. For the FAC concert, the trio will explore open improvisation, as well as their own compositions.

The short list of DeJohnette’s creative associations includes Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Charles Lloyd, George Benson, Chick Corea, Hubert Laws, Freddie Hubbard, Pat Metheny, Dave Holland and so many others.

While Jack’s incendiary sound is easily recognized, he brings the versatility to encompass hard bop, fusion, world music and avant-garde styles in equal measure. Ravi Coltrane (son of John and Alice) has taken a remarkable journey over the past two decades, collaborating with jazz greats from McCoy Tyner to Joe Lovano, Ralph Alessi, Geri Allen and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts. Electric bassist Matthew Garrison (son of Jimmy) has recorded and appeared with some of the most exciting artists in jazz, including Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Steve Coleman and Jim Beard. He is the founder of Shapeshifter Lab, a Brooklyn incubator for adventurous music.

One of DeJohnette’s first professional experiences was playing with saxophonist John Coltrane. Playing with Coltrane placed him squarely in the avant-garde of the mid-’60s. His first long-term, high-profile gig was with saxophonist Charles Lloyd, whose band also featured a young Keith Jarrett on piano. Before long, DeJohnette was performing with the cream-of-the-crop, including Jackie McLean, Betty Carter, and Stan Getz.

In 1968 DeJohnette landed the drum chair with Miles Davis, replacing drum innovator Tony Williams. It was the start of Davis’ “Electric Miles” phase, and Miles was now enjoying notoriety beyond the jazz world.

Jack Johnson, Bitches Brew, Live at the Fillmore, and other Miles recordings of the late ’60s and early ’70s showcased DeJohnette’s unique propulsive style. DeJohnette was also starting to receive attention for leading his own groups, starting with Compost. Compost was superseded by Directions, then New Directions. Both bands featured guitarist John Abercrombie. His ’80s group, Special Edition, featured the saxophone talents of David Murray, Arthur Blythe, John Purcell, and Chico Freeman, with bassist Rufus Reid. However, Jack’s longest musical association – for over three decades – has been Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio, featuring bassist Gary Peacock

Always forward looking, DeJohnette continues to search out new collaborations and creative forms of expression. Among his projects in the ’90s was an all-star touring group of Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, and Dave Holland, and their recording, Music for a Fifth World.

During the past decade, his drumming has been featured on award-winning recordings, including two Grammy-nominated albums for 2004: The Out Of Towners, with Jarrett’s Standards Trio, and Don Byron’s Ivey Divey. In his current trio, with Ravi Coltrane and Matt Garrison, DeJohnette blazes a creative path through the jazz tradition. It’s an exhilarating tour of Afro-Caribbean rhythms, ethereal soundscapes, and post-bop musings.

Tickets for the Jack DeJohnette Trio are $40 and $20; Five College, GCC and 17 and under are $10. For tickets call the Box Office at 545-2511, toll-free at 800-999-UMAS, or purchase online at fineartscenter.com. The Fine Arts Center’s season is sponsored by Baystate Health and Health New England, with additional event support coming from 88.5 NEPR and Hotel UMass.